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Tesla Earnings: 5 Must-See Metrics Highlight Strong Execution

By Daniel Sparks - Jan 27, 2021 at 7:30PM

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A new Model S design, soaring free cash flow, and big guidance: Here's what you need to know.

Following an incredible 2020 for Tesla (TSLA 3.32%) stock, expectations were high going into the company's fourth-quarter earnings report Wednesday afternoon. Investors in the growth stock were looking for another quarter of meaningful profits and signs that rapid sales growth can persist in 2021 and beyond.

The automaker arguably delivered. Free cash flow soared, management guided for vehicle deliveries to grow even faster in 2021 than they did in 2020, and the company unveiled an all-new Model S interior.

"This past year was transformative for Tesla," management said in the company's fourth-quarter update. "Despite unforeseen global challenges, we outpaced many trends seen elsewhere in the industry as we significantly increased volumes, profitability and cash generation."

Interior of a new Tesla Model S

New Tesla Model S interior. Image source: Tesla.

Here's a close look at five of the most important metrics from the quarter.

1. Revenue growth of 46%

Fueled primarily by a 61% year-over-year increase in vehicle deliveries, Tesla's fourth-quarter revenue jumped 46%, helping the company cap off a strong year. This put full-year revenue at $31.5 billion, up from $24.6 billion in 2019.

2. Free cash flow of $1.9 billion

Tesla's free cash flow (cash provided by operations less capital expenditures) was $1.9 billion, up from $1 billion in the year-ago period. The company has "sufficient liquidity" to fund its "product roadmap, long-term capacity expansion plans and other expenses," management said.

3. Installed energy storage capacity of 1,584 megawatt-hours

Tesla's energy storage business has been growing sharply recently -- and Q4 was no exception. Quarterly energy storage installations amounted to 1,584 megawatt-hours, up from 530 megawatt-hours in the year-ago quarter. Total 2020 megawatt-hour energy storage deployments were more than 3 gigawatt-hours, up 83% year over year.

4. An operating margin of 5.4%

Tesla's fourth-quarter operating margin of 5.4% put its total 2020 operating margin at 6.3%, up from 0.3% in 2019. Management said it expects its operating margin to continue expanding, eventually reaching "industry-leading levels."

5. An expected increase in vehicle deliveries of more than 50%

Tesla's year-over-year growth of 36% in vehicle deliveries in 2020 was impressive. But 2021 will be even more notable, according to management's projections. In the fourth-quarter update, Tesla said it expects vehicle deliveries to increase more than 50% year over year. This would put total 2021 deliveries at more than 750,000 -- up from about 500,000 deliveries in 2020.

As if these metrics weren't enough for Tesla shareholders to get excited about, Tesla also reiterated some important progress on its product plans. These include starting Model Y production at its Berlin and Texas factories, and launching Tesla Semi -- both this year -- along with an all-new interior design for Tesla's Model S sedan.

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