By on March 10, 2020

Some 12 years and one month ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk delivered the firm’s first electric vehicle… to himself. Fast-forward to today, and electric vehicle are sprouting from automakers the world over — including the “legacy” automakers Teslaphiles so often deride as out of touch.

On Monday, the company that opened the floodgates for EV proliferation marked a production milestone once thought of as inconceivable: its millionth car.

Musk marked the occasion in a tweet depicting a red Model Y crossover surrounded by Fremont, California assembly plant staff.

The Model Y went into production in January, with deliveries expected before the end of this month.

While the Model Y will carry the automaker into what it hopes is a continuously profitable future (it’s made gains on the financial front in recent quarters), it was the Model 3 sedan that brought Tesla into the near-mainstream. After a difficult ramp-up, volume surged, and a Chinese plant opened late last year provided the company with a new outlet for fresh rolling stock. Logging is underway to clear the path for a German factory.

Since the Model S first entered production in 2012 (after the Lotus partnership ended and the pool of Roadsters dried up), Tesla has sought to cement itself into the fabric of the auto landscape. In doing so, it enraged analysts and insiders who blasted the upstart California company’s shoddy devotion to industry best practices. There was a tent, you’ll recall.

Concern still abounds about the quality of the produced vehicles, about the ethics of the company under its present CEO, of the servicing issues that cropped up as volume rose, and of the continued misuse of the company’s half-baked Autopilot driver-assist suite, but those people find themselves outnumbered by those who feel a car isn’t truly electric unless the word “Tesla” comes affixed to its sides. This, despite numerous electric vehicles now on the market. The Nissan Leaf, it should be pointed out, is in the third year of its second generation. It means little to Tesla devotees.

Tesla — and with it, Musk — can do no wrong.

Still, passing the one million mark is a notable achievement for any automaker, least of all a fully electric one that showered in red ink much of its life. Often times, it appeared that Tesla was hanging on by a thread; indeed, Musk did nothing to dispel this image, even as recently as a couple of years ago. But the Model 3 ramp-up and subsequent investments in overseas production and new model development seemed to calm the seas.

In the broader industry, the seas are anything but calm. Or certain. With electrification chiseled in stone as the industry’s only acceptable future, automakers big and small are climbing over each other for a slice of a hazy market, promising enormous EV take rate and volume. General Motors (of all companies) was the most recent to do so, rolling out its modular EV platform and proprietary battery technology last week while promising EVs in every segment and at every price point.

All of this means more competition for Tesla, though no legacy automaker — not even Porsche — can claim the same level of devotion that Tesla enjoys from its disciples buyers. It remains to be seen what happens to Tesla’s status after the electric motor replaces internal combustion as the dominant propulsion type.

[Image: Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock]

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37 Comments on “Tesla Marks Milestone As Threats Gather...”


  • avatar
    Lokki

    I am not a Tesla Fanboi…..but I have to say Congratulations and well-done.

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      Yes, I’m impressed with Tesla, even as a doubter. I still don’t understand how anyone takes anything Elon says about the company seriously. I mean, the guy is obviously selling the hype, not the product. But, tons of people have tried to start car companies from scratch and failed miserably.
      I know he has used a lot of funds from governments, but if you don’t think every other big business doesn’t, you are crazy. It’s just part of business, and if you aren’t making an attempt to shake the free money tree, you are selling your business short.
      That said, Tesla’s valuation is insane. Anyone who buys stock in that company should have their head examined. Unless Elon can manage to pull off a miracle and create an electric BMW or Mercedes, with that permanent “weight”, the mainstream car companies are going to kill Tesla when/if battery prices ever come down.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        So far the market has shown that EV buyers don’t want something from a normal brand. The people that buy them, want to show off how they’re saving the world. It’s pretty amazing how Tesla has been able to develop that brand, especially after so many failed attempts at new brands before. The stock price is insane, but we’ve been thinking that since the IPO and until recently, it just kept going up.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          “So far the market has shown that EV buyers don’t want something from a normal brand.”

          I don’t really agree with this. So far the market has shown that EV buyers don’t want to either (1) buy small hatchbacks or (2) pay $15k premiums to the rest of the segment. The challenge is not about branding as much as product, cost, and battery production capacity.

          Does anyone really doubt that if Audi had the production capacity to price the current e-tron at $55k then it would be flying out of dealerships?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Once again…can we stop with the “EV buyers are greenies who want to save the world” nonsense? The cars aimed at that buyer – think the Leaf and Bolt, along with other more marginal vehicles – don’t sell. Teslas do. Why? Because Teslas are good looking, high-tech, fast and prestigious. People buy them because they’re cool. The whole “green” thing is just sauce for the goose. Don’t believe me? Drive around the wealthiest, most right-wing suburb in your area and tell me how many Teslas you see. Here in Denver, they’re thick on the ground in places where the whole “green” argument is a non starter.

          The EV market wants COOL EVs, not dorky save-the-whale mobiles.

          And as far as the whole “normal manufacturers versus Tesla” thing is concerned, how many “normal” manufacturers have actually made something that would compete with Tesla’s big seller, the Model 3? Zero. The first credible competitor will be the VW ID-whatever they’re bringing out soon. Otherwise, you have super-high-dollar sport sedans like the Taycan, the Mach E (which I think will sell), and the Audi E-tron (which has flopped because its’ range sucks and it costs way too much money). We haven’t seen any serious “normal” competition to Teslas, and that’s why Tesla rules the market.

          • 0 avatar
            Robotdawn

            Exactly Freed. Right now no one is selling electric cars to the normal market. Tesla is selling to the BMW/Mercedes Brand is everything crowd. The Leaf and Bolt go to the greenies with a bit of cash crowd.
            The normal electric car will sell to me. A commuter who just needs a car that will travel 300 miles a week and doesn’t cost too much, because depreciation is painful. Those do not exist. Period.
            When they do, will Tesla have created enough of that capital B Brand for those who have to wear Nike, drive a BMW and live in certain neighborhoods to replace the BMW with a Tesla? I’m not betting my 401k on it.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @FreedMike is correct. In our organization German vehicles are ‘frowned upon’. Therefore previously a lot of Lexus (Lexi?), with some Infinitis, Acuras, Jags, Land/Range Rovers and the odd Aston-Martin were the vehicles most commonly seen being driven by the senior executives.

            Now these are being replaced by Teslas. Regarded as ‘fast’, good looking and most of all as ‘leading edge’ by the glitterati.

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            @FreedMike +1

            My experience with Telsa owners is they want a high-tech, fast, sexy, luxury car. As a bonus they love not having to deal with the maintenance of an ICE vehicle. Who has time for oil changes and stopping to fill up? People who want to save the planet know the best option is to not own a vehicle at all.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            They’re not greenies that want to save the world. They want to be perceived that way. Big difference. Tesla does a decent job with their power train, but otherwise the cars aren’t exactly great. If someone sold a car like a Tesla without the brand panache, they would sell almost none. Teslas are cars people want to be seen in, and good on them. They succeeded making a brand that people want to buy, and with little actual marketing spending.

        • 0 avatar
          Old_WRX

          Maybe EV’s should have green strobe lights on top of them (kind of like the bizarrely inappropriate white ones on top school buses, but green) to signal the inarguable virtue of the owner. They got a remote emissions car instead of a local emissions car. Hopefully, those remote emissions will be dumped on an area with less political clout.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The “remote emissions” range from near-zero in places like Seattle to about half what you’d get from a gas car in the dirtiest coal state. And for the most part they are shifted away from population centers, which is good for public health.

            EVs aren’t “zero emissions” but they’re a major improvement.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The “remote emissions” range from near-zero in places powered by renewables to about half what you’d get from a gas car in the dirtiest coal state. And for the most part they are shifted away from population centers, which is good for public health.

            EVs aren’t “zero emissions” but they’re a major improvement.

        • 0 avatar

          Answer to you question – Elon Musk. He hires the right people and he and his team are passionate and innovative about their enterprise. It is Silicon Valley thing. You cannot say the same thing about Bill Ford or Jim Hackett. Or compare East coast Xerox with Apple – enough said.

      • 0 avatar
        hifi

        Why wouldn’t people take Elon seriously? He’s built every car that he said he would build. He’s provided energy storage to Australia and Africa. He’s sent rockets into space. He digs holes in the ground. HOLES! Some of this hasn’t happened on schedule, but it’s all happened. Tesla is building a factory in China, breaking ground in Germany for another factory, and has states in the US and countries in Europe begging them to build production facilities. Keep in mind, every single Tesla is providing real-time data back to a big AI brain. Thousands of calculations per mile for billions of miles so far. Tesla is capturing the kind of user data that Google would kill for. Between the solar business, the charging infrastructure, the fully owned sales structure, the superior vehicle processors and tech, the vehicle categories yet untapped, Tesla is a highly vertical company can monetize their business in ways that others can’t. The stock is still undervalued.

        • 0 avatar
          Robotdawn

          You are failing to understand what I said. I never said I don’t take Elon Musk seriously. The guy is a genius perhaps only rivaled by Bezos in current American capitalism. 100 years from now his name will likely be spoke in the same tones as Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Ford and other captains of industry.
          What I said is, why anyone takes anything he says seriously is beyond me. That guy hasn’t met a deadline. Ever. It’s all goal setting. He knows it when he says it. Why the people who listen to his words don’t understand it is beyond me.
          I assume it’s the same people who take politicians words seriously too.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Can we please stop with the “Tesla buyers are a cult” nonsense already, TTAC? Seriously…these guys make stuff that’s unique and seriously fun to drive, and there isn’t any real competition for Tesla products at this point.

    These are loyal customers, not “cultists” or “disciples.” Give it a break already.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      Yup. I read “…the upstart California company’s shoddy devotion to industry best practices. There was a tent, you’ll recall.” and immediately checked to see which writer penned this one. Sorry, Steph, but your writing is fairly predictable. Tesla hits the million-car milestone and the article spends more time trying to slap them in the face than it does congratulating them.

      I’m no Tesla fanboy. I don’t want to buy one and I don’t own Tesla stock, but I wouldn’t bet against them. I’ve watched while the “Never EV” crowd has said it’ll be vaporware, they’ll never get more than 100 miles to a charge, they’ll never launch a second model, they’ll never sell in any real numbers, they’ll never get more than 200 miles to a charge, they’ll never launch an mid-priced car, etc.

      Their stock is overpriced? The price reflects the potential for future earnings. If you haven’t noticed, the new norm for business models is to be in the red, as far as you can, all the time. Bet your company’s future or you’re dying.

      “Tesla won’t be able to compete once the other manufacturers all start producing EVs.” Who makes the batteries? Tesla. There will be badge engineering and component purchase agreements. Tesla will be a major supplier to the “legacy” automakers.

      Accept it.

  • avatar
    incautious

    12 years and still haven’t made a penny. 1,000,000 is a remarkable feat, but without taxpayer billions and Californians driving solo in the carpool lanes,this would have collapsed a long time ago.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Correction: 17 years (founded 2003) and now profitable.

      Tesla’s customers received up to $7500 in tax breaks (not rebates) for 200k cars, so my math says $1.5 billion. They paid back their DOE loan early.

      Nissan had the lead for EV sales until a few years ago, including the subsidy and carpool lanes. Now they’re an afterthought in the EV market.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Tesla’s desire to go all-in is what really sets them apart.

    Nobody else has been willing to build their own battery factories, charging network, in-house dealer network, or scale production like they have. Moreover, nobody is willing to lose money for 15+ years until finally turning the corner.

    Without such resolve, nobody will catch them.

    Like them or hate them, what’s sobering is just how hard it is to build a viable car mfr today. Comparisons of Tesla to Tucker, Bricklin, or DeLorean are wildly wrong. All of them combined produced a few hand-built toys – fewer than Tesla builds in a week or two.

  • avatar
    Odiemac

    Wow, out of touch much?

    Threats are gathering for internal combustion engine focused companies with minimal software engineering capability.

    And Leaf cheerleading, are you serious? Even by traditional automaker standards it’s a dinosaur based on the same 2006 Versa platform as the first gen Leaf. And they have software and supply issues

    Never change, TTAC.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    I’m impressed only with Tesla batteries and integration into vehicles and homes. As far as the rest of the junk they build (bodies with poor panel fits and their idiot owners who make Honduh, Toyoduh, and Apple buyers look sane), I just don’t see what is luxurious about the vehicles other than the outrageous sticker prices. Considering the bait and switch of the $35k vehicle and the rancid consumer care that precludes owners from working on their own vehicles, I just can’t find much to like about a company now governed by a Muskrat.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      So…anyone who buys something you don’t like is insane. That’s certainly a sane viewpoint on your part.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      And why would someone purchasing a vehicle of this type and at this price point be interested in ‘working on their own vehicle’?

      They have people to clean their houses and keep their lawns/gardens. Why would they want to get dirty working on a car?

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        People buying a $50K Tesla have housekeepers and gardeners? This is not a Bentley.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          You might be surprised, jack, but Arthur’s right – the target market for Tesla is yuppies, and those folks don’t generally work on their own cars in the first place, and probably wouldn’t want cars they could work on.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “the target market for Tesla is yuppies”

            What I noticed is that the BEV market is for people with money.

            For the price of a BEV, you can buy two ICE cars, and still have money left over.

            But if a person wants to make a social statement, buying a Tesla is like buying an Apple product.

            Both have cache and exclusivity but there are other brands out there that do the same things cheaper, and sometimes better.

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            I don’t question that people who buy entry level luxury cars aren’t interested in working on them, hence the maintenance plans included with every lease these days, but I do question the statement that people who can afford a car barely 50% over the median new car price have hired domestic help.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            “For the price of a BEV, you can buy two ICE cars, and still have money left over.”

            That’s not necessarily true. With the Chevy Bolt discounted into the upper twenties, the gap is narrowing. The car that you get for half the price of the Bolt won’t have the smoothness, quiet, and performance of an EV. A Bolt does 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. How much do ICE cars capable of that time cost?

            At the higher end of the scale, how much does it cost for an ICE car capable of 0-60 in 3.2 seconds like the Model 3 Performance at $57k? A 2020 Hellcat Widebody is $71k and .4 seconds 0-60 slower. An M2 is about the same price and I think about .6 seconds slower 0-60. Is there anything for $28k that can do 0-60 in 3.2 seconds?

            To me, Tesla has a huge advantage with its supercharger network. It’s huge and plenty of stations at each location. Compare that with the other manufacturers. They also have proven battery technology. There are a lot of reasons to go with a Tesla beyond cache and exclusivity.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            mcs, you just cited the reasons why the auto community is divided into roughly 98% pro-ICE cars with 2% favoring EVs et al.

            I remember a discussion on ttac where the price of the VOLT was the issue, as compared to the cost of TWO CRUZE sedans.

            I am pro-choice when it comes to vehicles so I believe that there is a place for EVs, PHEVs and Hybrids. Someone will buy them, just not as many buyers as those buying an ICE vehicle.

            If the price of the Rivian R1T falls within the price envelope I am willing to spend, I hope to buy one later this year.

            But the limited-range Rivian will not be my primary traveling vehicle. That will remain an ICE vehicle, probably a Tundra or Sequoia.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @jack4x: We aren’t talking a Downton Abbey staff of live in servants. But a maid/housekeeping service performing regular housekeeping chores and a gardening/landscaping service weekly cutting lawns and caring for gardens.

          Something that is ‘normal’ in more affluent neighbourhoods.

          Which is where you will find Teslas and Tesla leasors/owners.

          And just what percentage of Teslas are the sole vehicles for a household? I would guess that the majority are in 3+ vehicle households, with a least one large SUV or pickup.

          Driving a Tesla is ‘not virtue signalling’, it is ‘affluence signalling’. It is possessing and flaunting the latest in high (overpriced?) technology.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      lol i get it you added duh to the name cuz only dumb people by those cars cuz there dumb and there cars are dumb and dumb people say duh a lot like my dumb cousin who has a dumb honDUH thats great ill tell him i like funny stuff to maybe we can be frends wats your facebook

    • 0 avatar

      Tesluh.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    How long before we get to see a Tesla Junkyard Find?

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “Some 12 years and one month ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk delivered the firm’s first electric vehicle… to himself.”

    No doubt this particular vehicle is wasting away in some empty space somewhere:
    https://www.whereisroadster.com/

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Yeah, it’s clogging up the space-time continuum of dark matter. Pretty much like his hundreds of Starlink satellites are ruining earth-based astronomy with reflections which he denies because, well he painted the last lot black. Good thinking, there, Elon. Old Musker – only things he dreams up are any good, like the super-fantastic beyond human ken Autopilot. Everyone else’s ideas aren’t worth the time of day, he’s the world’s only true genius. So, how’s The Boring Company getting on?

      The cars are fine, it’s the rest of this idiot’s prating I can’t stand.

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