Tesla made half a million electric cars in 2020

It didn't quite deliver that many, however.

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.