Tesla, from peer disdain to supremacy

Many have pointed the finger at Tesla in the past. The current figures of the American manufacturer prove Elon Musk right, who navigated brilliantly through the chip crisis.

In the automobile, for a few years, there is generally Tesla and the others. Always on the sidelines of other manufacturers, Elon Musk’s firm likes to do things its own way.

It has been no different for two years of pandemic and broken supply chains. In mid-2021, when automotive as a whole was about to have a very difficult second half for its chip supply, Tesla said it managed to get around the problem by using other processor models and adapting its cars.

In particular, there was talk of a very big effort to rewrite Tesla’s software and test it quickly to maintain the production rate. A flexibility that the CEO of Volkswagen, Herbert Diess, has himself praised on several occasions.

Nor would Tesla have put a brake on semiconductor deliveries at the start of the pandemic, when factories were shut down, unlike others who thus lost their delivery slots. Also, Tesla has a big advantage, as the company also develops semiconductors in-house.

Only four models

Tesla does not have a very broad product portfolio. Adapting four models is actually simpler than adapting the entire range of a group like Volkswagen or General Motors. Tesla will not release a new model in 2022. Production of the explosive Cybertruck has been postponed to 2023. Tesla’s small, less expensive model (initially planned for around 25,000 euros) is also postponed.



While many automakers are struggling to achieve good margins in the electric. Tesla reached 14.7% margins in the last quarter of 2021. A level that is close to that of Porsche.

With barely two factories in the world (and therefore soon three with that of Berlin), Tesla’s supply chain is much less complex than that of the automotive behemoths. Having one of its two main factories in China also helped.

In the chip crisis, Asian brands have indeed managed to hold their own. In the EU, the Hyundai and Toyota groups saw their 2021 registrations increase by 21.1% and 9.1% respectively in a market contracting by 2.1%.

End the disdain

It seems a long time ago, yet not so long ago, when many actors and observers of the automotive sector looked at the firm of Elon Musk with a certain amount of disdain. They pointed, quarter after quarter, the losses of the manufacturer who had bet on the electric vehicle before anyone else. They also systematically recalled the complexity of setting up an automotive industrial apparatus.

Today many are trying to catch up with Tesla on technology. In the meantime, Tesla is making money, a lot of money at a time when the competition is struggling to obtain similar margins in the electric vehicle to those of the thermal vehicle.

Its 2021 net profit was posted at $5.5 billion ($4.99 billion). That of the Volkswagen group was displayed at 15.5 billion euros. Tesla delivered a total of 936,222 cars in 2021. At the same time, the Volkswagen group delivered nearly… 9 million vehicles.

The operating margin that Tesla managed to establish in the fourth quarter of 2021 is 14.7%. Over the year 2021, it was 12.1% against 6.3% in 2020 and a still negative margin in 2019 (-0.3%).

In doing so, Tesla is approaching the margins of a brand like Porsche, which shows 16.5% margins.

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