Elon Musk’s Tesla comes up short of 2022 delivery target as growth slows

  • Electric car maker falls short of its initial goal of increasing annual deliveries by 50% or more last year.
Tesla Inc. delivered fewer vehicles in 2022 than it initially targeted, capping a year during which the stock suffered its worst annual performance as demand appeared to soften and Covid-related production disruptions persisted.

Elon Musk’s electric-vehicle maker said Monday that it delivered about 1.31 million vehicles last year, up roughly 40% from 2021. The company would have needed to hand over more than 1.4 million vehicles to meet its initial goal of increasing deliveries by 50% or more. Tesla signaled in October that it likely would come up short of its target, and Wall Street had already moderated its delivery expectations to about 1.34 million for 2022, according to FactSet.

Tesla, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, said in a press release that changes in how the company produces cars and distributes them to customers left more vehicles in transit to their final destination at year-end.

Tesla endured a challenging year, losing about $675 billion in market valuation as its share price fell 65%. The company idled its car factory in Shanghai on multiple occasions, early on because of local pandemic restrictions, then again in December as it faced a wave of Covid-19 infections among workers and suppliers. Mr. Musk suggested last month that the higher interest-rate environment was hurting vehicle demand. In a year-end sales push, Tesla offered discounts to many buyers who agreed to take delivery of vehicles before January.

Elon Musk’s Tesla comes up short of 2022 delivery target as growth slows

Meanwhile, Mr. Musk’s involvement with Twitter Inc., the social-media company he acquired in a deal valued at $44 billion, has frustrated many investors and alienated some potential Tesla buyers. The Tesla chief executive has liquidated more than $39 billion worth of Tesla stock since the shares peaked in November 2021, linking some of those sales to Twitter.

Amid the turmoil, Mr. Musk has emphasized his view of Tesla’s potential.

“Long-term fundamentals are extremely strong. Short-term market madness is unpredictable,” he tweeted Friday.

Tesla’s stock-price decline has dented Mr. Musk’s personal wealth. Mr. Musk is now worth about $137 billion, down more than $130 billion from a year earlier, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Last month, Mr. Musk ceded the unofficial title of world’s richest person to European mogul Bernard Arnault.

Although Tesla’s annual growth slowed in 2022, the company’s fourth-quarter deliveries marked a new quarterly high. Tesla said it delivered a combined 1.25 million Model 3 sedans and Model Y crossover vehicles in 2022. Of those, 388,131 of them were in the fourth quarter. It also delivered 66,705 Model S sedans and Model X sport-utility vehicles combined, 17,147 of them in the final three months of the year, and a first batch of semitrailer trucks.

The company produced 1.37 million vehicles in 2022, up 47% from a year earlier.

Wall Street expects Tesla’s 2022 sales growth to lift annual revenue more than 50% from a year earlier to top $82 billion, according to analysts surveyed by FactSet. Analysts forecast profit will have more than doubled from 2021, to nearly $13 billion. Tesla, still the world’s most valuable car company, is expected to report fourth-quarter results on Jan. 25. It also scheduled an investor day for March 1.

The company remains dominant in the U.S. electric-vehicle market, with a market share of about 61% as of the third quarter of 2022, according to S&P Global Mobility. But its lead shrank in recent quarters as rivals introduced more battery-powered alternatives.

This year is poised to further test Tesla’s ability to maintain its pace of growth in the face of economic uncertainty, higher interest rates and more competition in the electric-vehicle market.

Countering those challenges, as of Jan. 1, many prospective Tesla buyers in the U.S. are likely to qualify for a $7,500 tax credit, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act President Biden signed into law last year. The law lifted an earlier production cap that prevented Teslas from qualifying for the credit.

Tesla also is poised to enter the lucrative pickup-truck segment with its long-awaited Cybertruck, challenging the likes of Ford Motor Co. and Rivian Automotive Inc., which are already selling electric pickups.

The company is aiming to sell 20 million vehicles annually by 2030, a feat that would make it the largest car manufacturer by volume by a wide margin. To do so, Tesla is likely to need roughly a dozen factories, Mr. Musk has said. He said last month that the company was close to picking a new manufacturing site.

Analysts expect Tesla to deliver shy of 2 million vehicles in 2023, according to FactSet.

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