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Tesla Prepares Investors For Its Gap Year

The company is trying to figure out what to do next.

A Tesla.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

2023 was the year Tesla decided it would sell a lot of cars, even if it meant lowering prices. This year, however, Tesla may see “notably slower” growth, the company warned Wednesday in an investor update.

Tesla argued it was “between two major growth waves.” The first saw the rise of the Model 3 and Model Y, its more moderately priced sedan and SUV which together made up over 95 percent of its total unit sales in 2023. “The next one we believe will be initiated by the global expansion of the next-generation vehicle platform,” the company said, likely referencing its rumored “Redwood” vehicle that Reuters reported the company wants to start producing in the middle of next year.

The Model Y, Tesla said, is “the best-selling vehicle, of any kind, globally” following its 1.2 million deliveries in 2023. “For a long time, many doubted the viability of EVs. Today, the best-selling vehicle on the planet is an EV,” Tesla’s investor update said.

The company also flagged that the continuing rollout of the Cybertruck, which launched late last year, weighed on its profits. But the biggest change for the company was the pursuit of lower prices. The company’s $25.2 billion of revenues in the fourth quarter was due to “growth in vehicle deliveries” — selling more cars — albeit at lower average prices. So while revenue grew, it only grew 3% from a year ago.

Whether the electric vehicle sector as a whole is slowing is a matter of some debate. But Tesla is clearly trying to figure out what to do next, after successfully building up its business from near-bankruptcy and selling 1.8 million cars per year. Before the Cybertruck launch, it hadn’t refreshed its lineup in years and did not provide a specific figure for how many vehicles it expects to sell in 2024. Historically its deliveries have risen around 50% a year, although it “only” sold 38% more cars in 2023 than 2022.

Profits tell a similar story to its revenue: Tesla said that reduced prices weighed on its profitability, as did increased spending on artificial intelligence, especially its self-driving technology. It also flagged that its battery business contributed to its overall profits.

The company’s earnings per share of 71 cents and its revenue of $25.2 billion were slightly short of Wall Street estimates, according to Bloomberg.

Tesla shares have been flagging this year, down 16 percent from the end of last year and falling again in after-hours trading following the release of its earnings report. The tech-heavy Nasdaq as a whole is up around 5% this year.

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Matthew Zeitlin profile image

Matthew Zeitlin

Matthew is a correspondent at Heatmap. Previously he was an economics reporter at Grid, where he covered macroeconomics and energy, and a business reporter at BuzzFeed News, where he covered finance. He has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, Barron's, and New York Magazine.

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