Its subsidiary Tesla Energy develops and is a major installer of photovoltaic systems in the United States. Tesla Energy is one of the largest global suppliers of battery energy storage systems with 6.5gigawatt-hours (GWh) installed in 2022.
Tesla was incorporated in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning as Tesla Motors. The company's name is a tribute to inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. In February 2004, via a $6.5 million investment, Elon Musk became the company's largest shareholder. He became CEO in 2008. Tesla's announced mission is to help expedite the move to sustainable transport and energy, obtained through electric vehicles and solar power.
Tesla began production of its first car model, the Roadster sports car, in 2008. This was followed by the Model S sedan in 2012, the Model X SUV in 2015, the Model 3 sedan in 2017, the Model Y crossover in 2020, and the Tesla Semi truck in 2022. The company plans production of the Cybertruck light-duty pickup truck in 2023. The Model 3 is the all-time bestselling plug-in electric car worldwide, and in June 2021 became the first electric car to sell 1 million units globally. Tesla's 2022 deliveries were around 1.31 million vehicles, a 40% increase over the previous year, and cumulative sales totaled 4 million cars as of April 2023. In October 2021, Tesla's market capitalization temporarily reached $1 trillion, the sixth company to do so in U.S. history.
Tesla has been the subject of lawsuits, government scrutiny, and journalistic criticism, stemming from allegations of whistleblower retaliation, worker rights violations, product defects, and Musk's many controversial statements.
The company was incorporated as Tesla Motors, Inc. on July 1, 2003, by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Eberhard and Tarpenning served as CEO and CFO, respectively. Eberhard said he wanted to build "a car manufacturer that is also a technology company", with its core technologies as "the battery, the computer software, and the proprietary motor".
Ian Wright was Tesla's third employee, joining a few months later. In February 2004, the company raised US$7.5 million (equivalent to $12 million in 2022) in series A funding, including $6.5 million (equivalent to $10 million in 2022) from Elon Musk, who had received $100 million from the sale of his interest in PayPal two years earlier. Musk became the chairman of the board of directors and the largest shareholder of Tesla.J. B. Straubel joined Tesla in May 2004 as chief technical officer.
A lawsuit settlement agreed to by Eberhard and Tesla in September 2009 allows all five – Eberhard, Tarpenning, Wright, Musk, and Straubel – to call themselves co-founders.
Elon Musk took an active role within the company and oversaw Roadster product design at a detailed level, but was not deeply involved in day-to-day business operations. The company's strategy was to start with a premium sports car aimed at early adopters and then move into more mainstream vehicles, including sedans and affordable compacts.
In February 2006, Musk led Tesla's Series B venture capital funding round of $13 million, which added Valor Equity Partners to the funding team. Musk co-led the third, $40 million round in May 2006 which saw investment from prominent entrepreneurs including Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and former eBay President Jeff Skoll. A fourth round worth $45 million in May 2007 brought the total private financing investment to over $105 million.
Tesla's first car, the Roadster, was officially revealed to the public on July 19, 2006, in Santa Monica, California, at a 350-person invitation-only event held in Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport.
In August 2007, Eberhard was asked by the board, led by Elon Musk, to step down as CEO. Eberhard then took the title of "President of Technology" before ultimately leaving the company in January 2008. Co-founder Marc Tarpenning, who served as the Vice President of Electrical Engineering of the company, also left the company in January 2008. In August 2007, Michael Marks was brought in as interim CEO, and in December 2007, Ze'ev Drori became CEO and President. Musk succeeded Drori as CEO in October 2008. In June 2009, Eberhard filed a lawsuit against Musk for allegedly forcing him out.
Tesla began production of the Roadster in 2008.
By January 2009, Tesla had raised $187 million and delivered 147 cars. Musk had contributed $70 million of his own money to the company.
In May 2010, Tesla purchased what would later become the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California, from Toyota for $42 million, and opened the facility in October 2010 to start production of the Model S. On June 29, 2010, the company became a public company via an initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ, the first American car company to do so since the Ford Motor Company had its IPO in 1956. The company issued 13.3 million shares of common stock at a price of $17.00 per share, raising $226 million.
In January 2012, Tesla ceased production of the Roadster, and in June the company launched its second car, the Model S luxury sedan. The Model S won several automotive awards during 2012 and 2013, including the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year, and became the first electric car to top the monthly sales ranking of a country, when it achieved first place in the Norwegian new car sales list in September 2013. The Model S was also the bestselling plug-in electric car worldwide for the years 2015 and 2016.
Tesla announced the Tesla Autopilot, a driver-assistance system, in 2014. In September that year, all Tesla cars started shipping with sensors and software to support the feature, with what would later be called "hardware version 1". In April 2015, Tesla entered the energy storage market, unveiling its Tesla Powerwall (home) and Tesla Powerpack (business) battery packs. The company received orders valued at $800 million within a week of the unveiling.
Tesla began shipping its third vehicle, the luxury SUV Tesla Model X, in September 2015, at which time it had 25,000 pre-orders.
SolarCity and Model 3 (2016–2018)
In November 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity, in an all-stock $2.6 billion deal, and entered the photovoltaics market. The solar installation business was merged with Tesla's existing battery energy storage products division to form the Tesla Energy subsidiary. The deal was controversial because at the time of the acquisition, SolarCity was facing liquidity issues of which Tesla's shareholders were not informed.
In February 2017, Tesla Motors changed its name to Tesla, Inc. to better reflect the scope of its expanded business, which now included electric vehicles, battery energy storage systems, and solar power generation.
Tesla began selling its fourth vehicle model, the Model 3 sedan, in July 2017. The Model 3 was a cheaper vehicle compared to previous Tesla vehicles, and was intended for the mass market. It was highly anticipated, which prompted the company to try to speed up production. By August 2017, there were 455,000 reservations for the Model 3. The rollout was plagued by delays and production problems (described as "production hell" by Musk), increasing financial pressure on the company, which at this time was one of the most shorted companies in the market.
In August 2018, CEO Elon Musk briefly considered taking Tesla private. The plan did not materialize, and gave rise to much controversy and many lawsuits including a securities fraud charge from the SEC. By the end of 2018, the production problems had been overcome, and the Model 3 was the world's bestselling plug-in electric car for the year.
Global expansion and Model Y (2019–present)
Tesla opened its first factory outside the United States in Shanghai, China, in 2019. Gigafactory Shanghai was the first automobile factory in China fully owned by a foreign company (not a joint venture). It was built in less than six months. In March 2020, Tesla began deliveries of its fifth vehicle model, the Model Ycrossover.
In July 2020, Tesla reached a valuation of $206 billion, surpassing Toyota to become the world's most valuable automaker. On August 31, 2020, Tesla completed a 5-for-1 stock split.
From July 2019 to June 2020, Tesla reported four consecutive profitable quarters for the first time, which made it eligible for inclusion in the S&P 500. Tesla was added to the index on December 21, 2020. It was the most valuable company ever added, already the sixth-largest member. During 2020, the share price increased 740%, and on January 26, 2021, its market capitalization reached $848 billion, more than the next nine largest automakers combined and the US' 5th most valuable company.
In October 2020, Tesla dissolved its public relations (PR) department (with the exception of a few PR managers representing European and Asian markets).
In February 2021, Tesla revealed that it had invested $1.5 billion in bitcoin in 2020 and on March 24 the company started accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for US vehicle purchases. After 49 days, the company ended bitcoin payments over concerns that bitcoin "mining" was contributing to the consumption of fossil fuels. The price of bitcoin dropped around 12%. In July 2022 it was reported that Tesla had sold about 75% of its bitcoin holdings.
After disputes with California officials in 2020 over COVID-19 restrictions, on December 1, 2021, Tesla moved its legal headquarters to Austin, Texas. However, Tesla continued to use its former headquarters building in Palo Alto, and over the next two years significantly expanded its footprint in California. The company opened its Megafactory to build Megapack batteries in Lathrop, California in 2022, and announced in February 2023 that it would establish a large global engineering headquarters in Palo Alto, moving into a corporate campus once owned by Hewlett Packard.
In October 2021, Tesla's market capitalization reached $1 trillion, the sixth company to do so in U.S. history, on news that car rental company Hertz had placed an order for 100,000 vehicles.
In June 2022, Tesla announced salaried headcount reductions of 10% because the company had become "overstaffed in many areas", adding that "hourly headcount will increase."
In 2023, Tesla paused plans to double Shanghai production to 2 million cars per year after encountering roadblocks from the government. Officials there expressed concerns with Elon's activities at SpaceX, in particular the quickly expanding military applications of Starlink.
In July 2023, Tesla acquired Wiferion, a Germany-based developer of wireless charging systems for industrial vehicles and autonomous robots, which has since been operating as Tesla Engineering Germany GmbH.
The Model S is a full-size car introduced in 2012. The Model S features a dual-motor, all-wheel drive layout, although earlier versions featured a rear-motor and rear-wheel drive layout. It has a liftback body style. Development of the Model S began prior to 2007 and debuted on June 22, 2012. The Model S has seen two major design refreshes, first in April 2016 which introduced a new front-end design and again in June 2021 which revised the interior. The Model S was the top-selling plug-in electric car worldwide in 2015 and 2016. Since its introduction, more than 250,000 vehicles have been sold.
The Tesla Model X is a mid-sizecrossover SUV. It is offered in 5-, 6- and 7-passenger configurations with either a dual- or tri-motor, all-wheel drive layout. The rear passenger doors open vertically with an articulating "falcon-wing" design. A prototype Model X was first shown in February 2012 and deliveries started in September 2015. The Model X shares around 30 percent of its content with the Model S. The vehicle has seen one major design refresh in June 2021 which revised the interior.
The Model 3 is a four-door fastback sedan. One week after its unveiling in 2016, Tesla reported over 325,000 reservations.Bloomberg News claimed that, due to the number of reservations, "the Model 3's unveiling was unique in the 100-year history of the mass-market automobile." Limited production began in July 2017.
In March 2020, the Model 3 broke the sales record for electric cars. Cumulative sales passed 1 million in June 2021. The Model 3 ranked as the world's bestselling electric car from 2018 to 2021, and also as the bestselling electric car in the United States since 2018. The Model 3 was the bestselling passenger car in Norway and the Netherlands in 2019.
The Model Y is a compactcrossover utility vehicle. The Model Y shares many components with the Model 3. The car has up to three rows of seats (up to 7 people), 68 cubic feet (1.9 m3) of cargo space, and has an EPA range of up to 326 miles (525 km). Deliveries started on March 13, 2020.
The Tesla Semi is an all-electric Class 8semi-trailer truck. As of June 2023, the company was building only 5 units/week and did not expect volume production before 2024, due to limited availability of the required 4680battery cells.
On November 16, 2017, Tesla unveiled the second generation Roadster with a purported range of 620 miles (1,000 km) with a 200 kilowatt-hours (720 MJ) battery pack that would achieve 0–60 miles per hour (0–97 km/h) in 1.9 seconds; and 0–100 mph (0–161 km/h) in 4.2 seconds, and a top speed over 250 mph (400 km/h). A "SpaceX Package" would include cold-gas thrusters. The vehicle would have three electric motors, allowing all-wheel drive and torque vectoring during cornering.
The base price was set at $200,000, while the first 1,000 units. Musk has said that the Roadster should ship in 2024.
The Cybertruck is a pickup truck unveiled on November 21, 2019. The truck's novel design made of flat sheets of unpainted stainless steel and bulletproof glass windows earned a mixed reception. As of February 2023, Musk has stated that deliveries are planned to begin by the end of Q3 2023.
The original Tesla Roadster was a two-seater sports car, evolved from the Lotus Elise chassis. It was produced from 2008 to 2012. The Roadster was the first highway-legal serial production electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 200 miles (320 km) per charge.
On July 20, 2016, Musk detailed Tesla's master plan "part deux". It included more affordable cars produced in higher volume, solar roofs, mid-size vehicles, SUVs and pickup trucks, as well as the refinement of autonomous vehicles and the creation of a sharing economy, in which cars can be active while the owner is not using them. Tesla's plan suggested building a minibus on the Model X platform, but in May 2017, Musk indicated that he might favor a 10–12 passenger version of the Model X over a dedicated minibus design.
In 2018, Musk announced a plan to offer a compact hatchback. In 2020, Musk said Tesla expected to have a $25,000 car within 3 years.
In April 2019, Musk announced Tesla's intention to launch an autonomous taxi service by the end of 2020 using more than 1 million Tesla vehicles. Tesla Robotaxi had not been launched as of June 2023.
Tesla uses over-the-air updates to deliver software and firmware updates, adding features, fixing defects, and resolving product recalls.
The Tesla App can be used to enable/disable features such as enhanced connectivity, and Autopilot/Full-Self Driving. acceleration boost (for Model 3 owners), and rear-heated seats (for Model 3 owners).
Tesla cars come with "Standard Connectivity", which provides navigation using a cellular connection, and the following (over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth): internet browsing, music streaming (with a paid subscription), and, when parked, video streaming and "caraoke". "Premium Connectivity" adds cellular access to those features and also provides live traffic and satellite maps for navigation.
Tesla service strategy is to service its vehicles first through remote diagnosis and repair. If it is not possible to resolve a problem remotely, customers are referred to a local Tesla-owned service center, or a mobile technician is dispatched. Tesla has said that it does not want to make a profit on vehicle servicing, which has traditionally been a large profit center for most auto dealerships.
In 2016, Tesla recommended having any Tesla car inspected every 12,500 miles or once a year, whichever comes first. In early 2019, the manual was changed to say: "your Tesla does not require annual maintenance and regular fluid changes," and instead it recommends periodic servicing of the brake fluid, air conditioning, tires and air filters.
The Supercharger network was introduced on September 24, 2012 as the Tesla Model S entered production, with six sites in California, Nevada and Arizona. As of July 2023, Tesla operates a network of 5,265 Supercharger stations with over 48,000 connectors. The stations are primarily deployed in three regions: Asia Pacific (over 2,000), North America (over 2,000) and Europe (over 1,000). Superchargers supply electrical power at 72 kilowatts (kW), 100 kW, 150 kW or 250 kW, with the maximum amount increasing over the years as the company improves its technology.
Destination charging location network
In 2014, Tesla launched the Destination Charging location network that provides chargers to hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, resorts, and other locations. It offers twice the power of a typical home charging station.
Destination chargers are installed free of charge. Larger locations may charge for power.
The North American Charging Standard (NACS) is an electric vehicle charging connector system developed and owned by Tesla. It has been used on all North American market Tesla vehicles since 2012 and was opened for use to other manufacturers in 2022. Fisker, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Polestar, Rivian, and Volvo have announced that they intended to equip future vehicles with NACS charging inlets. Several electric vehicle charging network operators and equipment manufacturers have announced plans to add NACS connectors.
On June 4, 2017, the American Automobile Association raised insurance rates for Tesla owners following a report from the Highway Loss Data Institute. The report concluded that the Model S crashes 46% more often and is 50% more expensive to repair than comparable vehicles. Similarly, the Model X was concluded to crash 41% more often and to be 89% more expensive to repair than similar vehicles. As a result, AAA raised insurance rates on Tesla cars by 30%. Tesla said that the analysis is "severely flawed and not reflective of reality", however, Tesla failed to provide any contradictory numbers. Shortly thereafter, Russ Rader, the spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, confirmed the AAA's analysis and that "Teslas get into a lot of crashes and are costly to repair afterward". The following year, an analysis of claim frequency and insurance cost data by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted by financial research provider 24/7 Wall St. found that the Tesla Model S and Model X were the two most expensive vehicles to insure. Musk stated that he expects these insurance rates will greatly decrease once driver-assist and self-driving technology become commonplace.
Starting in October 2017, Tesla partnered with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company to offer US customers an insurance plan designed specifically for Tesla cars. In August 2019, this partnership was superseded by a partnership with State National Insurance, but was initially only available to Tesla owners in California. In July 2020, Musk, relying on data obtained through the partnership with State National Insurance, announced that Tesla was creating its own "major" insurance company. Tesla claims the insurance uses individual vehicle data to offer personalized pricing.
As of January 2023, Tesla offers insurance in the U.S. states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
Tesla subsidiary Tesla Energy develops, builds, sells and installs solar energy generation systems and battery energy storage products (as well as related products and services) to residential, commercial and industrial customers. The subsidiary was created by the merger of Tesla's existing battery energy storage products division with SolarCity, a solar energy company that Tesla acquired in 2016. In 2022, the company deployed solar energy systems capable of generating 348 megawatts, an increase of 3 megawatts over 2021, and deployed 6.5 gigawatt-hours of battery energy storage products, an increase of 64% over 2021.
Tesla Energy products include solar panels (built by other companies for Tesla), the Tesla Solar Roof (a solar shingle system) and the Tesla Solar Inverter. Storage products include the Powerwall (a home energy storage device), the Megapack (a large-scale energy storage system). Tesla Autobidder is a real-time power trading/control platform. It provides asset management and portfolio optimization. Tesla Electric is a virtual power company that allows Powerwall owners to sell power to the local utility company.
At the time of Tesla's founding in 2003, electric vehicles were very expensive. In 2006, Elon Musk stated that Tesla's strategy was to first produce high-price, low-volume vehicles, such as sports cars, for which customers are less sensitive to price. This would allow them to progressively bring down the cost of batteries, which in turn would allow them to offer cheaper and higher volume cars. Tesla's first vehicle, the Roadster, was low-volume (fewer than 2,500 were produced) and priced at over $100,000. The next models, the Model S and Model X, are more affordable but still luxury vehicles. The most recent models, the Model 3 and the Model Y, are priced still lower, and aimed at a higher volume market, selling over 100,000 vehicles each quarter. Tesla continuously updates the hardware of its cars rather than waiting for a new model year, as opposed to nearly every other car manufacturer.
Unlike other automakers, Tesla does not rely on franchised dealerships to sell vehicles. Instead, the company directly sells vehicles through its website and a network of company-owned stores. The company is the first automaker in the United States to sell cars directly to consumers. Some jurisdictions, particularly in the United States, prohibit auto manufacturers from directly selling vehicles to consumers. In these areas, Tesla has locations that it calls galleries that the company says "educate and inform customers about our products, but such locations do not actually transact in the sale of vehicles." In total, Tesla operates nearly 400 stores and galleries in more than 35 countries. These locations are typically located in retail shopping districts, inside shopping malls, or other high-traffic areas, instead of near other auto dealerships.
Analysts describe Tesla as vertically integrated given how it develops many components in-house, such as batteries, motors, and software. The practice of vertical integration is rare in the automotive industry, where companies typically outsource 80% of components to suppliers and focus on engine manufacturing and final assembly.
Tesla generally allows its competitors to license its technology, stating that it wants to help its competitors accelerate the world's use of sustainable energy. Licensing agreements include provisions whereby the recipient agrees not to file patent suits against Tesla, or to copy its designs directly. Tesla retains control of its other intellectual property, such as trademarks and trade secrets to prevent direct copying of its technology.
Tesla is highly vertically integrated and develops many components in-house, such as batteries, motors, and software.
Tesla batteries sit under the vehicle floor to save interior and trunk (boot) space. Tesla uses a multi-part aluminum and titanium protection system to protect the battery from road debris and/or vehicle crashes. Tesla began recycling batteries at Giga Nevada in 2019.
Business analysis company BloombergNEF estimated Tesla's battery pack cost in 2021 at $112 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), versus an industry average of $132 per kWh.
Tesla was the first automaker to use cylindrical, lithium-ion battery cells. Battery chemistry has evolved, but generally used a graphite anode and a nickel-cadmium-manganese cathode. Tesla excludes safety features that it claims are unnecessary because of Tesla's thermal management system and the use of an intumescent fire prevention chemical.
Panasonic supplies many of Tesla's cells in the United States, and cooperates with Tesla in producing cylindrical 2170 batteries at Giga Nevada. In January 2021, Panasonic had the capacity to produce 39 GWh per year of battery cells there.
Tesla's 4680 battery cell is a larger, tab-less cell. It is used in some of its Model Y vehicles. It is used in Tesla's structural battery pack that is part of the chassis. Tesla predicted the new batteries to be up to 56% cheaper and increase range by 54%. The company claimed that to have designed a more efficient production process, and to have adopted less expensive electrode resources.
Tesla purchased several battery manufacturing patent applications from Springpower International, a small Canadian battery company.
Tesla makes two kinds of electric motors. Its oldest design in production is a three-phase four-pole alternating current induction motor with a copper rotor (which inspired the Tesla logo), which is used as the rear motor in the Model S and Model X. Newer, higher-efficiency permanent magnet motors are used in the Model 3, Model Y, the front motor of 2019-onward versions of the Model S and X, and are expected to be used in the Tesla Semi. The permanent magnet motors are more efficient, especially in stop-start driving.
Since September 2014, all Tesla cars are shipped with sensors (initially hardware version 1 or "HW1") and software to support Autopilot. Tesla upgraded its sensors and software in October 2016 ("HW2") to support full self-driving in the future. HW2 includes eight cameras, twelve ultrasonic sensors, and forward-facing radar. HW2.5 was released in mid-2017, and it upgraded HW2 with a second graphics processing unit (GPU) and, for the Model 3 only, a driver-facing camera. HW3 was released in early 2019 with an updated and more powerful computer, employing a custom Tesla-designed system on a chip.
In April 2019, Tesla announced that all of its cars will include Autopilot software (defined as just Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer (Beta)) as a standard feature moving forward. Full self-driving software (Autopark, Navigate on Autopilot (Beta), Auto Lane Change (Beta), Summon (Beta), Smart Summon (Beta) and future abilities) is an extra cost option.
In 2020, Tesla released software updates where its cars recognize and automatically stop at stop signs and traffic lights. In May 2021, Tesla removed the radar sensor and radar features from its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, opting instead to rely on camera vision alone. The New York Times reported in December 2021 that Musk "repeatedly told members of the Autopilot team that humans could drive with only two eyes and that this meant cars should be able to drive with cameras alone," an analogy some experts and former Tesla engineers described as "deeply flawed." Similarly, a statistical analysis conducted in A Methodology for Normalizing Safety Statistics of Partially Automated Vehicles debunked a common Tesla claim that Autopilot reduced crash rates by 40 percent by accounting for the relative safety of the given operating domain when using active safety measures.
Full Self-Driving (FSD) is an optional extension of Autopilot promoted as eventually being able to perform fully autonomous driving. At the end of 2016, Tesla expected to demonstrate full autonomy by the end of 2017, which as of July 2022 has not occurred. The first beta version of the software was released on October 22, 2020, to a small group of testers. The release of the beta has renewed concern regarding whether the technology is ready for testing on public roads. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called for "tougher requirements" for any testing of Autopilot on public roads.
Tesla's approach to achieve full autonomy is different from that of other companies. Whereas Waymo, Cruise, and other companies are relying on highly detailed (centimeter-scale) three-dimensional maps, lidar, and cameras, as well as radar and ultrasonic sensors in their autonomous vehicles, Tesla's approach is to use coarse-grained two-dimensional maps and cameras (no lidar) as well as radar and ultrasonic sensors. Tesla claims that although its approach is much more difficult, it will ultimately be more useful, because its vehicles will be able to self-drive without geofencing concerns. Tesla's self-driving software has been trained on over 20 billion miles driven by Tesla vehicles as of January 2021. Tesla also designed a self-driving computer chip that has been installed in its cars since March 2019.
Most experts believe that Tesla's approach of trying to achieve full self-driving by eschewing lidar and high-definition maps is not feasible. In March 2021, according to a letter that Tesla sent to the California Department of Motor Vehicles about FSD's capability – acquired by PlainSite via a public records request – Tesla stated that FSD is not capable of autonomous driving and is only at Society of Automotive Engineers Level 2 automation. In a May 2021 study by Guidehouse Insights, Tesla was ranked last for both strategy and execution in the autonomous driving sector. In October 2021, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called on Tesla to change the design of its Autopilot to ensure it cannot be misused by drivers, according to a letter sent to Musk.
Ahead of the start of production of the Model 3, Tesla invested heavily in robotics and automation to assemble vehicles. To that end, between 2015 and 2017, the company purchased several companies involved in automation and robotics including Compass Automation, Grohmann Automation, Perbix Machine Company, and Riviera Tool and Die. Elon Musk later admitted that the robotics actually slowed the production of the vehicles.
Tesla uses massive casting machines (Giga Press), to make large single pieces of vehicle underbodies and to streamline production.
In September 2022, Tesla revealed prototypes of a humanoid robot named Optimus, which Musk has stated uses the same core software as FSD. During the presentations at Tesla's AI Day 2022, Musk suggested that, among other use cases, the finalized version of Optimus could be used in Tesla's car factories to help with repetitive tasks and relieve labor shortages.
In November 2016, the company announced the Tesla Glass technology group. The group produced the roof glass for the Tesla Model 3. It also produces the glass used in the Tesla Solar Roof's solar shingles.
The company operates seven large factories and about a dozen smaller factories around the world. As of 2023, the company also operates more than 1,000 retail stores, galleries, service, delivery and body shop locations globally.
Tesla was founded in San Carlos, California. In 2010, Tesla moved its corporate headquarters and opened a powertrain development facility in Palo Alto. Tesla's first retail store was opened in 2008 in Los Angeles.
Tesla's first assembly plant occupies the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, known as the Tesla Fremont Factory. The factory was originally opened by General Motors in 1962, and then operated by NUMMI, a joint venture of GM and Toyota from 1984. The joint venture ended when GM entered bankruptcy in 2009. In 2010, Toyota agreed to sell the plant to Tesla at a significant discount.
Tesla’s first purpose-built facility was opened in Nevada in 2016. Gigafactory Nevada produces Powerwalls, Powerpacks and Megapacks; battery cells in partnership with Panasonic; and Model 3 drivetrains. The factory received substantial subsidies (abatements and credits) from the local and state government, that, in exchange for opening in their jurisdiction, allowed Tesla to operate essentially tax free for 10 years.
As part of the acquisition of SolarCity in 2016, Tesla gained control of Gigafactory New York in Buffalo on the site of a former Republic Steel plant. The state of New York spent cash to build and equip the factory through the Buffalo Billion program. In 2017, the factory started production of the Tesla Solar Roof, but faced multiple production challenges. Since 2020, Tesla has also assembled Superchargers in New York. The plant has been criticized for offering little economic benefit for the state funding.
On July 23, 2020, Tesla picked Austin, Texas, as the site of its fifth Gigafactory, since then known as Gigafactory Texas Giga Texas is planned to be the main factory for the Tesla Cybertruck and the Tesla Semi; it will also produce Model 3 and Model Y cars for the Eastern United States. On April 7, 2022, Tesla celebrated the opening of the facility in a public event.
On December 1, 2021, Tesla relocated its legal headquarters from Palo Alto, California to the Gigafactory site in Austin, Texas.
Tesla acquired a former JC Penney distribution center near Lathrop, California, in 2021 to build the "Megafactory" to manufacture the Megapack, the company’s large scale energy storage product. The location opened in 2022.
Tesla announced in February it would open a new global engineering headquarters in Palo Alto, moving into a corporate campus once owned by Hewlett Packard, located a couple of miles from Tesla’s former headquarters.
Tesla opened its first European store in June 2009 in London. Tesla's European headquarters are in the Netherlands, part of a group of Tesla facilities in Tilburg, including the company’s European Distribution Centre.
In late 2016, Tesla acquired German engineering firm Grohmann Engineering as a new division dedicated to helping Tesla increase the automation and effectiveness of its manufacturing process. After winding down existing contracts with other manufacturers, the renamed Tesla Automation now works exclusively on Tesla projects.
Tesla announced its plans to build a car and battery factory in Europe in 2016. Several countries campaigned to be the host, and eventually Germany was chosen in November 2019. On March 22, 2022, Tesla's first European Gigafactory named Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg opened with planned capacity to produce 500,000 electric vehicles annually as well as batteries for the cars.
Tesla opened its first showroom in Asia in Tokyo, Japan, in October 2010.
In July 2018, Tesla signed an agreement with Chinese authorities to build a factory in Shanghai, China, which was Tesla's first Gigafactory outside of the United States. The factory building was finished in August 2019, and the initial Tesla Model 3s were in production from Gigafactory Shanghai in October 2019. In 2021, China accounted for 26% of Tesla sales revenue, and was the second largest market for Tesla after the United States, which accounted for 45% of its sales.
Tesla has expressed interest in expanding to India and perhaps building a future Gigafactory in the country. The company established a legal presence in the nation in 2021 and plans to open an office in Pune starting in October 2023.
In January 2010, Tesla and battery cell maker Panasonic announced that they would together develop nickel-based lithium-ion battery cells for electric vehicles. The partnership was part of Panasonic's $1 billion investment over three years in facilities for lithium-ion cell research, development and production.
Beginning in 2010, Panasonic invested $30 million for a multi-year collaboration on new battery cells designed specifically for electric vehicles. In July 2014, Panasonic reached a basic agreement with Tesla to participate in battery production at Giga Nevada.
Tesla and Panasonic also collaborated on the manufacturing and production of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules at the Giga New York factory in Buffalo, New York. The partnership started in mid-2017 and ended in early 2020, before Panasonic exited the solar business entirely in January 2021.
In March 2021, the outgoing CEO of Panasonic stated that the company plans to reduce its reliance on Tesla as their battery partnership evolves.
Tesla also has a range of minor partnerships, for instance working with Airbnb and hotel chains to install destination chargers at selected locations.
Daimler and Tesla began working together in late 2007. On May 19, 2009, Daimler bought a stake of less than 10% in Tesla for a reported $50 million. As part of the collaboration, Herbert Kohler, vice-president of E-Drive and Future Mobility at Daimler, took a Tesla board seat. On July 13, 2009, Daimler sold 40% of its acquisition to Aabar, an investment company controlled by the International Petroleum Investment Company owned by the government of Abu Dhabi. In October 2014, Daimler sold its remaining holdings for a reported $780 million.
Tesla supplied battery packs for Freightliner Trucks in 2010. The company also built electric-powertrain components for the Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-Cell, with 500 cars planned to be built for trial in Europe beginning in September 2011. Tesla produced and co-developed the Mercedes-Benz B250e's powertrain, which ended production in 2017. The electric motor was rated 134 hp (100 kW) and 230 pound force-feet (310 N⋅m), with a 36 kWh (130 MJ) battery. The vehicle had a driving range of 200 km (124 mi) with a top speed of 150 km/h (93 mph). Daimler division Smart produced the Smart ED2 cars from 2009 to 2012 which had a 14-kilowatt-hour (50 MJ) lithium-ion battery from Tesla.
In May 2010, Tesla and Toyota announced a deal in which Tesla purchased the former NUMMI factory from Toyota for $42 million, Toyota purchased $50 million in Tesla stock, and the two companies collaborated on an electric vehicle.
In July 2010, the companies announced they would work together on a second generation Toyota RAV4 EV. The vehicle was unveiled at the October 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show and 35 pilot vehicles were built for a demonstration and evaluation program that ran through 2011. Tesla supplied the lithium metal-oxide battery and other powertrain components based on components from the Roadster.
The production version was unveiled in August 2012, using battery pack, electronics and powertrain components from the Tesla Model S sedan (also launched in 2012). The RAV4 EV had a limited production run which resulted in just under 3,000 vehicles being produced, before it was discontinued in 2014.
According to Bloomberg News, the partnership between Tesla and Toyota was "marred by clashes between engineers". Toyota engineers rejected designs that Tesla had proposed for an enclosure to protect the RAV4 EV's battery pack. Toyota took over responsibility for the enclosure's design and strengthened it. In 2014, Tesla ended up adding a titanium plate to protect the Model S sedan's battery after some debris-related crashes lead to cars catching fire. On June 5, 2017, Toyota announced that it had sold all of its shares in Tesla and halted the partnership.
Initial versions of Autopilot were developed in partnership with Mobileye beginning in 2014. Mobileye ended the partnership on July 26, 2016, citing "disagreements about how the technology was deployed."
In 2021, seven women came forward with claims of having faced sexual harassment and discrimination while working at Tesla's Fremont factory. They accused the company of facilitating a culture of rampant sexual harassment. The women said they were consistently subjected to catcalling, unwanted advances, unwanted touching, and discrimination while at work. "I was so tired of the unwanted attention and the males gawking at me I proceeded to create barriers around me just so I could get some relief," Brooks told The Washington Post. "That was something I felt necessary just so I can do my job." Stories range from intimate groping to being called out to the parking lot for sex.
Women feared calling Human Resources for help as their supervisors were often participants. Musk himself is not indicted, but most of the women pressing charges believe their abuse is connected to the behavior of CEO Elon Musk. They cite his crude remarks about women's bodies, wisecracks about starting a university that abbreviated to "T.IT.S", and his generally dismissive attitude towards reporting sexual harassment. "What we're addressing for each of the lawsuits is just a shocking pattern of rampant harassment that exists at Tesla," said attorney David A. Lowe. In 2017, another woman had accused Tesla of very similar behavior and was subsequently fired. In a statement to the Guardian, Tesla confirmed the company had fired her, saying it had thoroughly investigated the employee's allegations with the help of "a neutral, third-party expert" and concluded her complaints were unmerited.
In May 2022, a California judge ruled that the sexual harassment lawsuit could move to court, rejecting Tesla's request for closed-door arbitration.
From 2014 to 2018, Tesla's Fremont Factory had three times as many Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations as the ten largest U.S. auto plants combined. An investigation by the Reveal podcast alleged that Tesla "failed to report some of its serious injuries on legally mandated reports" to downplay the extent of injuries.
In January 2019, former Tesla security manager Sean Gouthro filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that the company had hacked employees' phones and spied on them, while also failing to report illegal activities to the authorities and shareholders. Several legal cases have revolved around alleged whistleblower retaliation by Tesla. These include the dismissal of Tesla safety official Carlos Ramirez and Tesla security employee Karl Hansen. In 2020, the court ordered Hansen's case to arbitration. In June 2022, the arbitrator filed an unopposed motion with the court stating Hansen "has failed to establish the claims...Accordingly his claims are denied, and he shall take nothing".
In September 2019, a California judge ruled that 12 actions in 2017 and 2018 by Musk and other Tesla executives violated labor laws because they sabotaged employee attempts to unionize.
The California Civil Rights Department filed a suit in 2022 alleging "a pattern of racial harassment and bias" at the Tesla Fremont factory. As of April 2023, the Department is also conducting a probe of the factory based on a 2021 complaint and claims that Tesla has been obstructing the investigation.
There have been numerous concerns about Tesla's financial reporting. In 2013, Bloomberg News questioned whether Tesla's financial reporting violated Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) reporting standards.Fortune accused Tesla in 2016 of using creative accounting to show positive cash flow and quarterly profits. In 2018, analysts expressed concerns over Tesla's accounts receivable balance. In September 2019, the SEC questioned Tesla CFO Zach Kirkhorn about Tesla's warranty reserves and lease accounting. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn accused Elon Musk in November 2019 of "significant fraud", and publicly questioned Tesla's accounting practices, telling Musk that he was "beginning to wonder whether your accounts receivable exist."
From 2012 to 2014, Tesla earned more than $295 million in Zero Emission Vehicle credits for a battery-swapping technology that was never made available to customers. Staff at California Air Resources Board were concerned that Tesla was "gaming" the battery swap subsidies and in 2013 recommended eliminating the credits.
A consolidated shareholders lawsuit alleges that Musk knew SolarCity was going broke before the acquisition, that he and the Tesla board overpaid for SolarCity, ignored their conflicts of interest and breached their fiduciary duties in connection with the deal, and failed to disclose "troubling facts" essential to an analysis of the proposed acquisition. The members of the board settled in 2020, leaving Musk as the only defendant. In April 2022, the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled in favor of Musk, and its ruling was upheld by the Delaware Supreme Court in June 2023.
In August 2018, Elon Musk tweeted, "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured." The tweet caused the stock to initially rise but then drop when it was revealed to be false. Musk settled fraud charges with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over his false statements in September 2018. According to the terms of the settlement, Musk agreed to have his tweets reviewed by Tesla's in-house counsel, he was removed from his chairman role at Tesla temporarily, and two new independent directors were appointed to the company's board. Tesla and Musk also paid civil penalties of $20 million each. A civil class-action shareholder lawsuit over Musk's statements and other derivative lawsuits were also filed against Musk and the members of Tesla's board of directors, as then constituted, in regard to claims and actions made that were associated with potentially going private. In February 2023, a California jury unanimously found Musk and Tesla not liable in the class-action lawsuit.
In September 2018, Tesla disclosed that it was under investigation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding its Model 3 production figures. Authorities were investigating whether the company misled investors and made projections about its Model 3 production that it knew would be impossible to meet. A stockholder class action lawsuit against Tesla related to Model 3 production numbers (unrelated to the FBI investigation) was dismissed in March 2019.
Unlike other automakers, Tesla does not rely on franchised auto dealerships to sell vehicles and instead directly sells vehicles through its website and a network of company-owned stores. In some areas, Tesla operates locations called "galleries" which "educate and inform customers about our products, but such locations do not actually transact in the sale of vehicles." This is because some jurisdictions, particularly in the United States, prohibit auto manufacturers from directly selling vehicles to consumers. Dealership associations have filed lawsuits to prevent direct sales. These associations argued that the franchise system protects consumers by encouraging dealers to compete with each other, lowering the price a customer pays. They also claimed that direct sales would allow manufacturers to undersell their own dealers. The United States Federal Trade Commission ultimately disproved the associations' claims and recommended allowing direct manufacturer sale, which they concluded would save consumers 8% in average vehicle price.
Tesla has also lobbied state governments for the right to directly sell cars. The company has argued that directly operating stores improves consumer education about electric vehicles, because dealerships would sell both Tesla and gas-powered vehicles. Doing this, according to the company, would then set up a conflict of interest for the dealers since properly advertising the benefits of an electric car would disparage the gas-powered vehicles, creating a disincentive to dealership EV sales. Musk himself further contended that dealers would have a disincentive to sell electric vehicles because they require less maintenance and therefore would reduce after-sales service revenue, a large profit center for most dealerships.
In January 2021, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alex Khatilov alleging that the former employee stole company information by downloading files related to its Warp Drive software to his personal Dropbox account. Khatilov denies the allegation that he was acting as a "willful and malicious thief" and attributes his actions to an accidental data transfer. The case was settled in August 2021 through mediation.
Tesla has sued former employees in the past for similar actions; for example, Guangzhi Cao, a Tesla engineer, was accused of uploading Tesla Autopilot source code to his iCloud account; Tesla and Cao settled in April 2021.
In 2018, a class action was filed against Musk and the members of Tesla's board alleging they breached their fiduciary duties by approving Musk's stock-based compensation plan. Musk received the first portion of his stock options payout, worth more than $700 million in May 2020.
In July 2023, Tesla board members returned $735 million to the company to settle a claim from a 2020 lawsuit alleging misappropriation of 11 million stock options granted to Elon Musk, Kimbal Musk, Larry Ellison, and others from 2017 to 2020.
In 2019, The United States Environmental Protection Agency fined Tesla for hazardous waste violations that occurred in 2017. In June 2019, Tesla began negotiating penalties for 19 environmental violations from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District; the violations took place around Tesla Fremont's paint shop, where there had been at least four fires between 2014 and 2019. Environmental violations and permit deviations at Tesla's Fremont Factory increased from 2018 to 2019 with the production ramp of the Model 3.
In June 2018, Tesla employee Martin Tripp leaked information that Tesla was scrapping or reworking up to 40% of its raw materials at the Nevada Gigafactory. After Tesla fired him for the leak, Tripp filed a lawsuit and claimed Tesla's security team gave police a false tip that he was planning a mass shooting at the Nevada factory. The court ruled in Tesla's favor on September 17, 2020.
In August 2019, Walmart filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Tesla, claiming that Tesla's "negligent installation and maintenance" of solar panels caused roof fires at seven Walmart stores dating back to 2012. Walmart reached a settlement with Tesla in November 2019; the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
In May 2021, a Norwegian judge found Tesla guilty of throttling charging speed through a 2019 over-the-air software update, awarding each of the 30 customers who were part of the lawsuit 136,000 Norwegian kroner ($16,000). Approximately 10,000 other Norwegian Tesla owners may be granted a similar award.
Tesla has faced numerous complaints regarding workplace harassment and racial discrimination, with one former Tesla worker who attempted to sue the employer describing it as "a hotbed of racist behavior". As of December 2021, three percent of leadership at the company are African American. A former black worker described the work environment at Tesla's Buffalo plant as a "very racist place". Tesla and SpaceX's treatment of Juneteenth in 2020 also came under fire. Approximately 100 former employees have submitted signed statements alleging that Tesla discriminates specifically against African Americans and "allows a racist environment in its factories." According to the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Fremont factory is a racially segregated place where Black employees claim they are given the most menial and physically demanding work. The accusations of racism culminated in February 2022 with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing suing Tesla for "discriminating against its Black workers."
In July 2021, former employee Melvin Berry received $1 million in his discrimination case in arbitration against Tesla after he claimed he was referred to by the n-word and forced to work longer hours at the Fremont plant.
In October 2021, a jury verdict in the Owen Diaz vs. Tesla trial awarded the plaintiff $137 million in damages after he had faced racial harassment at Tesla's Fremont facility during 2015–2016. In a blog, Tesla stressed that Diaz was never "really" a Tesla worker, and that most utterings of the n-word were expressed in a friendly manner. In April 2022, federal judge William Orrick upheld the jury finding of Tesla's liability but reduced the total damage down to $15 million. Diaz was given a two-week deadline to decide if he would collect the damages. In June 2022, Diaz announced that he would be rejecting the $15 million award, opening the door for a new trial. In April 2023, Diaz was awarded $3.2 million in the new trial.
Few of these cases against Tesla ever make it to trial as most employees are made to sign arbitration agreements. Employees are afterwards required to resolve such disputes out of court, and behind closed doors.
Tesla's initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has been the subject of considerable criticism. Musk had sought to exempt the Tesla Fremont factory in Alameda County, California from the government's stay-at-home orders. In an earnings call in April, he was heard calling the public health orders "fascist". He had also called the public's response to the pandemic "dumb" and had said online that there would be zero cases by April. In May 2020, while Alameda County officials were negotiating with the company to reopen the Fremont Factory on the 18th, Musk defied local government orders by restarting production on the 11th. Tesla also sued Alameda County, questioning the legality of the orders, but backed down after the Fremont Factory was given approval to reopen. In June 2020, Tesla published a detailed plan for bringing employees back to work and keeping them safe, however some employees still expressed concern for their health.
In May 2020, Musk told workers that they could stay home if they felt uncomfortable coming back to work. But in June, Tesla fired an employee who criticized the company for taking inadequate safety measures to protect workers from the coronavirus at the Fremont Factory. Three more employees at Tesla's Fremont Factory claimed they were fired for staying home out of fear of catching COVID-19. This was subsequently denied by Tesla, which even stated that the employees were still on the payroll. COVID-19 cases at the factory grew from 10 in May 2020 to 125 in December 2020, with about 450 total cases in that time period out of the approximately 10,000 workers at the plant (4.5%).
In China, Tesla had what one Tesla executive described as "not a green light from the government to get back to work – but a flashing-sirens police escort." Tesla enjoyed special treatment and strong government support in China, including tax breaks, cheap financing, and assistance in building its Giga Shanghai factory at breakneck speeds. Musk has praised China's way of doing things, a controversial stance due to deteriorating U.S.–Chinese relations, China's ongoing persecution of Uyghurs, and alleged human rights abuses in Hong Kong.
Musk has been criticized for repeated pushing out both production and release dates of products. By one count in 2016, Musk had missed 20 projections. In October 2017, Musk predicted that Model 3 production would be 5,000 units per week by December. A month later, he revised that target to "sometime in March" 2018. Delivery dates for the Model 3 were delayed as well. Other projects like converting supercharger stations to be solar-powered have also lagged projections. Musk responded in late 2018: "punctuality is not my strong suit...I never made a mass-produced car. How am I supposed to know with precision when it's gonna get done?"
Giga New York audit
In 2020, the New York State Comptroller released an audit of the Giga New York factory project, concluding that it presented many red flags, including lack of basic due diligence and that the factory itself produced only $0.54 in economic benefits for every $1 spent by the state.
According to automotive journalist Jamie Kitman, when multiple CEOs of major automotive manufacturers approached Tesla for EV technology that Musk had claimed the company was willing to share, they instead were offered the opportunity to buy regulatory credits from Tesla. This suggested, according to Kitman, that "the company may not be as eager for the electric revolution to occur as it claims."
TSLAQ is a collective of Tesla critics and short sellers who aim to "shape [the] perception [of Tesla] and move its stock." In January 2020, 20% of Tesla stock was shorted, the highest at that time of any stock in the U.S. equity markets. By early 2021, according to CNN, short sellers had lost $40 billion during 2020 as the stock price climbed much higher.Michael Burry, a short seller portrayed in The Big Short, had shorted Tesla previously via his firm Scion Asset Management, but removed his position in October 2021.
Vehicle product issues
On April 20, 2017, Tesla issued a worldwide recall of 53,000 (~70%) of the 76,000 vehicles it sold in 2016 due to faulty parking brakes which could become stuck and "prevent the vehicles from moving". On March 29, 2018, Tesla issued a worldwide recall of 123,000 Model S cars built before April 2016 due to corrosion-susceptible power steering bolts, which could fail and require the driver to use "increased force" to control the vehicle.
In October 2020, Tesla initiated a recall of nearly 50,000 Model X and Y vehicles throughout China for suspension issues. Soon after in November, the NHTSA announced it had opened its own investigation into 115,000 Tesla cars regarding "front suspension safety issues", citing specifically 2015–2017 Model S and 2016–2017 Model X years. Cases of the "whompy wheel" phenomenon, which also included Model X and the occasional Model 3 cars, have been documented through 2020.
In February 2021, Tesla was required by the NHTSA to recall 135,000 Model S and Model X vehicles built from 2012 to 2018 due to using a flash memory device that was rated to last only 5 to 6 years. The problem was related to touchscreen failures that could possibly affect the rear-view camera, safety systems, Autopilot and other features. The underlying technical reason is that the car writes a large amount of syslog content to the device, wearing it out prematurely.
Also in February 2021, the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) ordered Tesla to recall 12,300 Model X cars because of "body mouldings problems".
In June 2021, Tesla recalled 5,974 electric vehicles due to worries that brake caliper bolts might become loose, which could lead to loss of tire pressure, potentially increasing the chance of a crash.
On December 30, 2021, Tesla announced that they are recalling more than 475,000 US model vehicles. This included 356,309 Model 3 Tesla vehicles from 2017 to 2020 due to rear-view camera issues and a further 119,009 Tesla Model S vehicles due to potential problems with the trunk or boot. The Model S recall includes vehicles manufactured between 2014 and 2021. Around 1% of recalled Model 3s may have a defective rear-view camera, and around 14% of recalled model S' may have the defect. The recall was not linked to a contemporaneous issue regarding the Passenger Play feature, which allowed games to be played on the touchscreen while the car is in motion. After an investigation was launched by the NHTSA covering 585,000 vehicles, Tesla agreed to make changes where the feature would be locked and unusable while the car is moving.
In September 2022, Tesla announced that they are recalling almost 1.1 million US model vehicles because the automatic window reversal system might not react correctly after detecting an obstruction, increasing the risk of injury. In response, Tesla announced an over-the-air software fix.
In February 2023, Tesla recalled its FSD software following a recommendation from NHTSA; the recall applied to approximately 360,000 cars. NHTSA found that FSD caused "unreasonable risk" when used on city streets. In March 2023, about 3,500 Model Y Teslas were recalled for a bolting issue concerning the cars' second-row seats.
Tesla customers have reported the company as being "slow" to address how their cars can ignite. In 2013, a Model S caught fire after the vehicle hit metal debris on a highway in Kent, Washington. Tesla confirmed the fire began in the battery pack and was caused by the impact of an object. As a result of this and other incidents, Tesla announced its decision to extend its current vehicle warranty to cover fire damage. In March 2014, the NHTSA announced that it had closed the investigation into whether the Model S was prone to catch fire, after Tesla said it would provide more protection to its battery packs. All Model S cars manufactured after March 6, 2014, have had the 0.25-inch (6.4 mm) aluminum shield over the battery pack replaced with a new three-layer shield. In October 2019, the NHTSA opened an investigation into possible battery defects in Tesla's Model S and X vehicles from 2012 to 2019 that could cause "non-crash" fires.
A Model S driver died in a collision with a tractor-trailer in 2016, while the vehicle was in Autopilot mode; the driver is believed to be the first person to have died in a Tesla vehicle in Autopilot. The NHTSA investigated the accident but found no safety-related defect trend. In March 2018, a driver of a Tesla Model X was killed in a crash. Investigators say that the driver of the vehicle had his car in 'self-driving' mode and was using his phone to play games when the vehicle collided with the barrier in the middle of the freeway. Through investigation, the NTSB found that the Tesla malfunctioned due to the system being confused by an exit on the freeway.
According to a document released in June 2021, the NHTSA has initiated at least 30 investigations into Tesla crashes that were believed to involve the use of Autopilot, with some involving fatalities. In early September 2021, the NHTSA updated the list with an additional fatality incident and ordered Tesla to hand over all extensive data pertaining to US cars with Autopilot to determine if there is a safety defect that leads Tesla cars to collide with first-responder vehicles. In late September 2021, Tesla released an over-the-air software update to detect emergency lights at night. In October 2021, the NHTSA asked Tesla why it did not issue a recall when it sent out that update. In June 2022, the NHTSA said it would expand its probe, extending it to 830,000 cars from all current Tesla models. The probe will be moved up from the Preliminary Evaluation level to the Engineering Analysis one. The regulator cited the reason for the expansion as the need to "explore the degree to which Autopilot and associated Tesla systems may exacerbate human factors or behavioral safety risks by undermining the effectiveness of the driver's supervision."
A safety test conducted by the Dawn Project in August 2022 demonstrated that a test driver using the beta version of Full Self-Driving repeatedly hit a child-sized mannequin in its path, but there has been controversy over its conclusions. Several Tesla fans responded by conducting their own, independent tests using children; NHTSA released a statement warning against the practice.
In August 2015, two researchers said they were able to take control of a Tesla Model S by hacking into the car's entertainment system. The hack required the researchers to physically access the car. Tesla issued a security update for the Model S the day after the exploit was announced.
In September 2016, researchers at Tencent's Keen Security Lab demonstrated a remote attack on a Tesla Model S and controlled the vehicle in both Parking and Driving Mode without physical access. They were able to compromise the automotive networking bus (CAN bus) when the vehicle's web browser was used while the vehicle was connected to a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot. This was the first case of a remote control exploit demonstrated on a Tesla. The vulnerability was disclosed to Tesla under their bug bounty program and patched within 10 days, before the exploit was made public. Tencent also hacked the doors of a Model X in 2017.
In January 2018, security researchers informed Tesla that an Amazon Web Services account of theirs could be accessed directly from the Internet and that the account had been exploited for cryptocurrency mining. Tesla responded by securing the compromised system, rewarding the security researchers financially via their bug bounty program, and stating that the compromise did not violate customer privacy, nor vehicle safety or security. Later in 2019, Tesla awarded a car and $375,000 to ethical hackers during a Pwn2Own Model 3 hacking event.
In June 2022, Martin Herfurt, a security researcher in Austria, discovered that changes made to make Tesla vehicles easier to start with NFC cards also allowed for pairing new keys to the vehicle, allowing an attacker to enroll their own keys to a vehicle.
In February 2022, Tesla drivers have reported a surge in "phantom braking" events when using Tesla Autopilot which coincides with the automaker's removal of radar as a supplemental sensor in May 2021. In response, NHTSA has opened an investigation.
In May 2023, German business newspaper Handelsblatt published a series of articles based on a trove of internal Tesla data submitted to them from informants. The 100 gigabytes of data "contain[ed] over 1,000 accident reports involving phantom braking or unintended acceleration" as well as complaints about Tesla Autopilot.Dutch authorities responded by saying they were investigating the company for possible data privacy violations.
Driving range performance
Tesla has received thousands of complaints from owners that the driving ranges of their vehicles did not meet the ranges advertised by Tesla or the projections of in-dash range meters. When service centers were overwhelmed with appointments to take care of these issues, Tesla established a diversion team to cancel as many appointments as possible. Customers were told that remote diagnostics had determined there was no problem and their appointments were canceled. The company has been fined by South Korean regulators for its exaggerated range estimates.
In 2022, Tesla ranked as the world's bestselling battery electric passenger car manufacturer, with a market share of 18%. Tesla reported 2022 vehicle deliveries of 1,313,851 units, up 40% from 2021. In March 2023, Tesla produced its 4 millionth car.
Tesla deliveries vary significantly by month due to regional issues such as availability of car carriers and registration. On March 9, 2020, the company produced its 1 millionth electric car, becoming the first auto manufacturer to achieve such a milestone. In the third quarter of 2021, Tesla sold its 2 millionth electric car, becoming the first auto manufacturer to achieve such a milestone. In the first quarter of 2023, the Model Y became the world's best-selling car, surpassing the Toyota Corolla.
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Tesla financial performance
For the fiscal (and calendar) year 2021, Tesla reported a net income of $5.52 billion. The annual revenue was $53.8 billion, an increase of 71% over the previous fiscal year.
Of the revenue number in 2021, $314 million came from selling regulatory credits to other automakers to meet government pollution standards. That number has been a smaller percentage of revenue for multiple quarters. In Q1 2022, Tesla sold $679 million of regulatory carbon credits.
Tesla ended 2021 with $17.6 billion of cash on hand, down $1.8 billion from the end of 2020.: 31
In February 2021, a 10-K filing revealed that Tesla had invested some $1.5 billion in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, and the company indicated it would soon accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. Critics then pointed out how investing in cryptocurrency can run counter to Tesla's environmental goals. Tesla made more profit from the 2021 investment than the profit from selling cars in 2020, due to the Bitcoin price increase after the investment was announced.
The quarter ending June 2021 was the first time Tesla made a profit independent of Bitcoin and regulatory credits.
Tesla has received criticism that its board lacks enough independent directors. In an April 2017 public letter, a group of influential Tesla investors, including the California State Teachers' Retirement System, asked Tesla to add two new independent directors to its board "who do not have any ties with chief executive Elon Musk". The investors wrote that "five of six current non-executive directors have professional or personal ties to Mr. Musk that could put at risk their ability to exercise independent judgement." Tesla's directors at the time included Brad Buss, who served as chief financial officer at SolarCity; Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist who also sits on the board of SpaceX; Elon Musk's brother, Kimbal; and Ira Ehrenpreis and Antonio Gracias, both of whom also invested in SpaceX. The letter called for a more independent board that could put a check on groupthink. At first Musk responded on Twitter, writing that the investors "should buy Ford stock" because "their governance is amazing." Two days later, he promised he would add two independent board members;Kathleen Wilson-Thompson and Larry Ellison were added at the end of 2018. Ellison stepped down in August 2022. Former Tesla CTO J. B. Straubel who left the company in 2019, was elected to the board in 2023.
Another criticism of the board composition is that most of the independent directors lack automotive industry experience. The exception is Robyn Denholm who served in finance and corporate reporting roles at Toyota Australia from 1989 to 1996.