Ever since the launch of its first Roadster in 2008, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) hasn't looked back. Over the years, the company has proved many of its naysayers wrong. Tesla can be credited for the ongoing transformation of the auto industry from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric ones. The company is already threatening the decades-long dominance of legacy car companies. Let's see where Tesla could be 10 years down the line.

Tesla's growth plans

Tesla sold 499,550 electric vehicles last year. It expects 50% average annual growth in deliveries over a multi-year horizon. It has two factories right now: at Fremont, California, and Shanghai, China. Moreover, it is constructing two more factories, one each in Berlin and Texas. The start of production at its Berlin factory got delayed from the end of this year to early next year while the Texas factory remains on track to start deliveries late this year.  

Are Tesla's growth projections realistic?

Between 2016 and 2020, Tesla grew its deliveries at an average rate of 65%. The EV maker's annual deliveries rose from 76,230 in 2016 to 499,535 in 2020. Assuming its annual deliveries grow at an average rate of 50% in the next four years, and the rate falls to an average of 25% beyond that, Tesla could be selling nearly 10 million cars by 2030. For some perspective, Toyota (NYSE:TM) sold 9.5 million vehicles in 2020 -- the highest of all automakers in the world. 

A person charging an electric car.

Image source: Getty Images.

If we were to base this projection solely on its trailing four-year growth rate, Tesla's expected growth numbers look reasonable. However, the past growth was on a lower base to begin with. Ramping up production at such high rate may not be easy.

Tesla has a production capacity of roughly 1 million cars right now. With its planned factories at Berlin and Texas, it would likely double this capacity. Tesla might still need around 16 more plants to reach its 10 million target, assuming an average capacity of 500,000 units. Even if Tesla constructs bigger factories in future, it might not be feasible to increase capacity beyond a limit. For perspective, Hyundai Motor's (OTC:HYMTF) Ulsan facility in South Korea, one of the largest in the world, has an annual capacity of around 1.5 million units while Volkswagen's (OTC:VWAGY) Wolfsburg plant has a capacity of over 800,000 units.

A key constraint in Tesla's production growth could be the availability of batteries. The company plans to produce its own batteries, in addition to buying them from suppliers, to meet its high demand. 

Though challenging, Tesla's growth numbers are achievable. Tesla has maneuvered production challenges in the past, and it could well continue to do so. Even if we assume some more delays and lower numbers, Tesla could still be among the top five automakers in the world by 2030.

Electric vehicles and autonomous driving

Apart from production challenges, Tesla needs to find enough buyers for its cars globally. It is the leader in electric vehicles right now. The International Energy Agency estimates that under current policies the number of electric vehicles globally could rise to 145 million by 2030 from around 11 million in 2020. Tesla is well positioned to capture this expected growth.

However, legacy automakers are also rolling out electric versions of their top car models. That could significantly amp up competition for Tesla in the coming years. Its brand image and product features are its key strengths. Its top EV models right now offer the longest range available.

Tesla is focused on ramping up production, removing bottlenecks, and improving battery range. The company is working on all fronts simultaneously and plans to expand rapidly. In short, despite competition and challenges, Tesla has the potential to become one of the largest automakers in the coming decade. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.