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Tesla: Growing Faster as It Gets Bigger?

By Daniel Sparks - Updated Apr 10, 2019 at 9:56PM

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Believe it or not, the electric-car maker's growth is accelerating.

Check out the latest Tesla earnings call transcript.

As the Street focuses on Tesla's (TSLA 4.53%) slight miss on fourth-quarter Model 3 deliveries and a $2,000 price reduction for all of its vehicle models, it's easy to overlook just how astounding the electric-car maker's growth has been recently. Indeed, Tesla's record fourth-quarter vehicle deliveries put total 2018 deliveries at more than 245,000 units -- up from 103,000 last year.

What's particularly notable about Tesla's recent growth is that the automaker is now growing at a faster rate than it has been in more than four years. Put another way, Tesla's growth rate is accelerating even as the company gets bigger. This impressive trend highlights how integral Tesla's Model 3 production ramp-up is for the company.

Vehicle production in Tesla's factory in Fremont, California.

Tesla factory. Image source: author.

Accelerating growth

It's no secret that Tesla has grown rapidly in a very short time. Indeed, Tesla didn't even start selling its Model S until 2012. The important vehicle took Tesla from selling fewer than a thousand Roadsters a year to more than 20,000 Model S units per year by the end of 2013. Since then, Tesla started selling the Model X in 2015 and the Model 3 in 2017. Now Tesla is delivering more than 90,000 vehicles per quarter.

As the company becomes larger, it's tempting to assume the electric-car maker is growing at a slower rate than in previous years. But this hasn't been the case. Helped by surging Model 3 production and deliveries, Tesla's growth rate has been reaccelerating recently. In 2018, Tesla's vehicle deliveries more than doubled, rising 138% year over year to more than 245,000. The last time Tesla's trailing-12-month deliveries saw growth this sharp was in the first quarter of 2014, when the automaker was benefiting from the recent introduction of its Model S.

A line chart showing Tesla's trailing-12-month growth in vehicle deliveries

Data source: Tesla quarterly shareholder letters and vehicle delivery updates.

Consider how Tesla articulates its recent growth in its fourth-quarter vehicle delivery update: "To put our growth into perspective, we delivered almost as many vehicles in 2018 as we did in all prior years combined." 

Expect more wild growth

Tesla's impressive trend of accelerating growth should continue. Even if total vehicle deliveries in Q1 remained at Q4 levels, TTM vehicle deliveries ending March 31 would be up 183% year over year. Of course, quarterly Model 3 production and deliveries will likely rise throughout 2019. With Tesla planning a further increase in its Model 3 production and an expansion of the vehicle's deliveries to markets outside of North America this year, there's significant runway for higher Model 3 sales.

The company's ability to grow at a faster rate recently bodes well for Tesla's vehicle production prowess. This is a refreshing turn of events after the electric-car company's Model 3 production targets initially suffered several delays.

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