Sign In or Create an Account.

By continuing, you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge our Privacy Policy

Sparks

Tesla’s and Rivian’s Year-End Sales Are Messy

Meanwhile, China’s BYD has taken the lead in the global EV market.

A Rivian showroom.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

How is the electric car industry doing? It depends on how you ask the question and who you ask it of.

Two leading U.S. companies — one a startup turned stalwart, the other still trying to secure itself a foothold in the market — reported their production and sales figures for the final three months of 2023. The behemoth Tesla delivered 484,507, besting expectations, according to Bloomberg. Rivian, the newcomer, delivered 13,972 cars over the same time period, missing estimates by a hair. The stock market response tells the rest of the story: Rivian shares were down around 10% in morning trading Tuesday, while Tesla shares are basically flat.

While the more-than-30-times difference is scale is obvious, the two companies’ numbers serve as snapshots of both the promise and peril of auto electrification as we roll into 2024. EVs are a real business, in which Tesla is a large but no longer dominant player. Elon Musk’s company has slipped into the number two slot behind China’s BYD. Rivian, meanwhile, is not just competing with Tesla to sell electric vehicles in the United States, but also with legacy automakers who have ramped up their electric vehicle businesses to the tune of about 10% of the American car market.

For Tesla, everything now is about scale — how it can pump out as many (increasingly competitively priced) cars to snare the average car buyer’s dollar. Rivian is at a different stage of its evolution, more reminiscent of the Tesla of more than a decade ago. The company still loses a staggering amount of money on every car it sells (although that figure is narrowing) and competes in a defined sector that Tesla has notably declined to directly play in: full-size luxury trucks and SUVs. And on another worrying note, while Rivian’s full-year production numbers came in more than 3,000 vehicles over its own guidance, its fourth quarter deliveries were short of the third quarter’s 15,564 deliveries.

While the challenge for Tesla is to sell as many cars as it can, the challenge for Rivian is to navigate the most dangerous part of a new car company’s growth — not the early days of using investor money to develop a new vehicle, but the next stage, where you have an actual car to sell but you have to figure out a way to make money doing it.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the difference in scale between Tesla and Rivian deliveries. We regret the error.

Green
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.

Donald Trump and Jaws.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Former President Trump wants to know: Would you rather be electrocuted or eaten by a shark?

On Sunday, during a rally in Las Vegas, the Republican nominee floated the question for what is at least the second time this campaign season (an odd choice, perhaps, given that Nevada is hardly shark territory, and therefore his supporters there are unlikely to have given the question much thought).

Keep reading...Show less
Red
Sparks

Tornado Alley Is Moving East

New research finally sheds some light on what the heck is happening.

A tornado.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

If hurricanes, wildfires, heat, and floods are the Big Four of extreme weather in America, then tornadoes are perhaps the equivalent of the National Bowling League.

That’s not for lack of fatalities — tornadoes kill more people annually than hurricanes, per the 30-year average — nor for their lack of star power (see: The Wizard of Oz, Sharknado, Twister, and my most highly anticipated movie of the year, Twisters). But when it comes to the study of extreme weather, robust, detailed data on tornadic supercells has been described as “largely absent,” at least compared to the scholarship on their more popular meteorological counterparts.

Keep reading...Show less
Blue
Sparks

A Swiss Army Knife for Clean Energy

These can really do it all — almost.

A dam.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Before and for the first year or so after the Inflation Reduction Act, clean energy in the United States was largely developed under the aegis of two tax credits: the Production Tax Credit, which primarily useful for wind power, and the Investment Tax Credit, which is primarily used for solar power. (The actual eligibility for each tax credit for each technology has changed various times over the years, but that’s the gist.)

Starting in 2025, however, and lasting (absent any change in the law) through at least 2032, that tax credit regime will be made “technology neutral.” Goodbye, existing credits with their limited applicability. Hello, new tax credits that apply to “any clean energy facility that achieves net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a release issued Wednesday by the Treasury Department.

“For too long, the U.S. solar and wind markets have been hampered by uncertainty due to the on-again-off-again nature of key tax credits,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on a call with reporters. “Periods of indecision and the credits being repeatedly allowed to elect to lapse made it too difficult for companies to plan and invest in clean energy projects.”

Keep reading...Show less
Green