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Tesla made half a million electric cars in 2020

It didn't quite deliver that many, however.
SHANGHAI, Oct. 26, 2020 -- Photo taken on Oct. 26, 2020 shows the Tesla China-made Model 3 vehicles at its gigafactory in Shanghai, east China. U.S. carmaker Tesla announced Monday that it will export 7,000 vehicles of made-in-China Model 3 to Europe on Tuesday.
    The batch of sedans is expected to arrive at the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium by sea at the end of November, before being sold in European countries including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.
    Tesla delivered the first batch of made-in-China Model 3 sedans to the public earlier this year, one year after the company broke ground on its first overseas plant. (Photo by Ding Ting/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Ding Ting via Getty Images)
Xinhua/Ding Ting via Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|January 2, 2021 10:48 AM

Tesla just reached an important production milestone. The electric vehicle maker has confirmed that it reached its goal of producing half a million cars in 2020, having built 509,737 EVs before the year was out. It didn’t quite deliver that many (‘just’ 499,550), but it’s still a huge leap over the 367,500 deliveries from 2019 and no mean feat in a pandemic-struck car market.

Not surprisingly, the clear majority of those produced cars (454,932) were more affordable Model 3 and Model Y units. Only 54,805 of them, or just under 10.8 percent, were upscale Model S and Model X machines. It’s clear Tesla was ramping things up toward the end of the year, as the 179,757 EVs made in the fourth quarter of 2020 represent over 35 percent of the company’s production for the year.

There’s a chance deliveries could officially crack the 500,000 mark, as Tesla noted these are early numbers that could vary by 0.5 percent “or more.”

Tesla is still tiny compared to larger brands. GM sold 7.7 million cars in its 2019 fiscal year, while the luxury-oriented BMW still managed to sell over 2.5 million. For now, at least, it remains niche compared to its more conventional rivals.

The company is still growing quickly, though, and there’s little doubt that Teslas are among the most common EVs on the road. For context, GM had sold just over 14,000 Chevy Bolts to Americans in 2020 as of the third quarter. While that gap will likely shrink as EVs become mainstream, Tesla has the clear head start.

Whether or not Tesla can preserve its momentum in 2021 is another matter. It could get a boost from the planned start of Cybertruck production late this year, not to mention refreshes like the ‘Plaid’ Model S. The firm added that Model Y numbers should go up now that its Shanghai factory has started manufacturing the crossover. With the fabled $25,000 Tesla still years away, it won’t be surprising if growth slows as the company’s business matures — even if the hoped-for pandemic recovery gets more people driving again.

Tesla made half a million electric cars in 2020