After estimating it would deliver at least 360,000 vehicles last year, Tesla delivered 367,500. That’s double the number of cars it sold in the previous two years combined. And with that, a company built on a battery-powered wing and a billionaire’s prayer finally became a mass-market automaker.
Tesla has shown a knack for marketing since its early days (having an attention-magnet founder doesn’t hurt), but operational execution has been a weakness. Until now. Not only did Tesla ship a company-record number of vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2019 (more than half of electric cars sold in the U.S. during that period), but it also turned a profit. Last year, Tesla opened a new factory in China and began delivering cars to the world’s largest EV market. All this while continuing to indulge CEO Elon Musk’s ability to create moments both captivating (the debut of the Cybertruck) and cringeworthy (his dance onstage at the China launch). Your move, Big Auto.
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A version of this article appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.