Elon Musk-founded electric car maker Tesla posted positive results for the first time in its history – in 2020 it made money. Good news as the group is valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars, far more than traditional automakers. Except that these gains do not come… from his activity.
Tesla: $ 700 million net profit in 2020
Driven by the desire of governments to change their fleet to add more and more electric, Tesla has experienced record growth in recent years. The manufacturer even almost reached its goal of 500,000 cars sold in 2020, a record for the manufacturer, and this in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The good news is piling up: Tesla even posted a net income of $ 721 million for the year, a historic first. The group thus records its first year in the green, confirming in theory its growth. For investors, it’s reassuring: with a market capitalization of $ 725 billion, Tesla had always taken losses until then.
But on closer inspection, if Tesla made money in 2020 … it’s not thanks to these cars. And for some, it can become a problem.
Tesla makes money … thanks to carbon credits
If Tesla’s sales are relatively high, they represent only a small part of the market: nearly 70 million cars were sold in 2020 worldwide, and this while sales have been sharply reduced due to the pandemic. . In comparison, Volkswagen and Toyota have sold more than 9 million cars… each. However, their market capitalization is far from that of Tesla: 82 billion dollars for the first, 23 billion for the second.
How did Tesla end the year in the red? In fact, it is thanks to carbon credits. Other manufacturers have been buying carbon credits from Tesla for years to offset their thermal production, as required by global regulations. For Tesla, a 100% electric manufacturer, it is a real gold mine which would have brought in 3.3 billion dollars during the last 5 years.
The year 2020 alone accounted for half of this sum, Tesla having earned 1.7 billion dollars thanks to these carbon credits sold to its competitors. In fact, without this money, Tesla would not have finished its year in the green but in the red, of nearly a billion dollars.