Tesla’s 1.8-million vehicle target for 2023 is a sign of a more mature automaker (Opinion)

It’s no secret that Tesla has a very big tendency to shoot for extremely ambitious targets. Elon Musk is certainly guilty of this, as he tends to announce extremely aggressive timetables and goals that eventually become delayed. But in Tesla’s Q4 and FY 2022 earnings call, the company did something different — it noted that it was aiming for 1.8 million vehicles for 2023. 

While a ramp to 1.8 million vehicles is a 37% improvement in volume over the company’s results in 2022 — when Tesla produced 1.37 million cars — the estimate is notably conservative. Tesla, after all, typically goes for extreme targets such as a 50% growth year-over-year. This was the case in 2022, with Tesla aiming for a YoY growth of 50%. The company ended the year with 47% growth in production and 40% growth in deliveries, and both investors and analysts were disappointed. 

Elon Musk explained Tesla’s rationale behind its conservative 1.8 million vehicle estimate during the Q4 and FY 2022 earnings call. The CEO noted that while Tesla’s internal production potential is closer to 2 million vehicles, the company is choosing to officially disclose 1.8 million vehicles to be on the safe side. 

“Our internal production potential is actually closer to two million vehicles, but we are saying 1.8 million because — I don’t know, it just always seems to be some force majeure thing that happened somewhere on Earth, and we can’t control if there’s like earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, pandemics, etc. So, if it’s a smooth year, without some big supply chain interruption or massive problem, we actually have the potential to do 2 million cars this year. We’re not committing to that, but I’m just saying that’s the potential,” Musk said

A few years ago — perhaps even a few quarters ago — such a statement from Musk would be completely out of character. Tesla has made a reputation for itself by being a company that makes the impossible feel late. But such strategies can only go so far, and as the business grows, such strategies may not work as well anymore. 

The reasons behind Tesla’s strategy for its 2023 goals have not been disclosed by Elon Musk or other executives. That being said, one cannot help but agree that such a strategy is wise this year. Perhaps the near-Murphy’s Law incidents that happened to Tesla last year taught the company and its leadership a hard lesson, or perhaps Elon Musk has been made gravely aware that his tendency to be careless and brash can have real consequences for TSLA shareholders and supporters.

Either way, Tesla appears to have come out of 2022 as a far more mature company, and one that won’t hesitate to start a price war to protect its place in the market. That’s great news for Tesla supporters and shareholders, and probably bad news for the company’s competitors in the automotive market.

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