There are a lot of fun Tesla sales numbers to discuss this week. It’s gobbling up the luxury car market in the US. It broke a quarterly delivery record — by more than doubling it! It now has perhaps the 4th best selling car in the United States in terms of units sold and 1st in terms of revenue. And just look at this quarterly sales chart:
Before the Q3 numbers came out, I jumped the gun (as I commonly do) and highlighted that Tesla’s production rate had risen to 300,000–400,000 per year just ~10 years after it produced its first car. (If you multiply Q3’s 80,142 production total by four, you get 320,568. If you multiply an estimated one-week output of 7,000 vehicles by 52 weeks, you get 364,000 vehicles. If you multiply an estimated one-week output of 7,700 vehicles by 52 weeks, you get 400,400 vehicles.)
However, there is perhaps nothing at Tesla more stunning to me than the fact that Tesla rose from delivering 321 cars in Q3 2012 to delivering a massive 80,142 vehicles in Q3 2018. That’s 25,913% sales growth in just 6 years!
And that’s not 25,913% growth of fidget spinners. That’s 25,913% growth of complicated, expensive, battery-packed, highly regulated, zero-emissions electric vehicles.
That is staggering growth and improvement in manufacturing, and I would dare say there hasn’t been a more successful example of a company’s production ramp since the Ford Model T.
Perhaps that chart above shows the story better than anything else, so I’m going to drop it in again below in four more colors so that you can click the sharing buttons on the color you like most and share it with friends — friends who may have been fooled by the high volume of negative headlines being published about Tesla every week.
There is clearly a common narrative that Tesla has difficulty ramping up production. Maybe that’s just because it is trying to ramp from a treehouse into the clouds before graduating from high school.
Again, look at the chart (the one with the color you like most). That is a staggeringly sharp sales increase. If it was any sharper, the whole chart would probably tip over.
We’ve highlighted in recent weeks that Tesla’s production growth actually fits Elon Musk’s 2015 forecast and the Gigafactory is two years ahead of its original schedule. Back in March, I noted that the Tesla Model 3 actually appears to be on its original schedule, despite all the hype about it being late. I’ve also made note that Tesla executes exceedingly well and has a pattern of underestimating demand for its products, not overestimating demand. Our own Kurt Lowder has pointed out that even when Tesla is late, it is far ahead of the competition — so how can we really call it late?
Yet, in all of those pieces, we haven’t gone a step further. We haven’t acknowledged that Tesla’s initial targets were insane. They were stupid crazy and perversely optimistic. That means that hitting those original targets — as it’s been doing — is a freakin’ mind-blowing accomplishment.
Who honestly thought 6 years ago that there was a good chance Tesla would be able to grow from 321 cars in the third quarter of that year (imagine you are back in that year, not sitting here today) to 80,142 vehicles in the same quarter 6 years later? Who honestly thought there would be hundreds of thousands more people waiting in line for cars at this time?
This just blows my mind, even though I’ve been one of the more bullish Tesla reporters and followers all along the way.
You can pick apart the foibles of a human being. You can complain or show your stripes as a “concern troll” about a few challenges with quarterly targets. You can even hyperventilate about paint, parked cars in parking lots, or world-altering panel gaps if you wish. But if you can’t step back, look at this story, and see an unlikely hero conquering a mountain, you are missing out on the amazing fun of it all.
Of course, that’s just one mountain, and the bullish among us expect that this unlikely hero is going after a full mountain range. You know what they say — the first mountain is the hardest.
That’s the story. Enjoy it. You are a witness to a beautiful thing.