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Visitors looking at a China-made Tesla Model Y electric vehicle at the Auto Shanghai 2021 show in Shanghai, China, on April 27, 2021.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tesla said on Sunday that it delivered more than 308,000 electric vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2021, beating its previous single-quarter record. The automaker produced over 305,000 fully electric vehicles total during the same period.

For the full year, Tesla delivered 936,172 vehicles, up from 2020 when it reported its first annual profit on deliveries of 499,647.

In the third quarter of 2021, vehicle deliveries reached 241,300, Tesla’s previous best quarter.

Deliveries are the closest approximation of sales reported by CEO Elon Musk’s electric car company.

Tesla combines delivery numbers for its higher-priced Model S and X vehicles, and lower-priced Model 3 and Y vehicles. The company does not break out sales or production numbers by region.

According to the mean of estimates compiled by FactSet, Wall Street analysts had anticipated Tesla deliveries of 267,000 in the fourth quarter. (Estimates ranged from 245,000 to 292,000.)

Shrugging off shortages

At Tesla’s 2021 annual shareholder meeting, Musk bemoaned a year marked by supply chain problems that made it difficult to obtain enough microchips and other unspecified parts.

Throughout the second year of a global coronavirus pandemic, Tesla was able to increase vehicle deliveries by ramping up production at its first overseas factory in Shanghai, and by making technical changes to the cars that it produces in Fremont, California, so that it could ditch some parts altogether.

Notably, Tesla announced in May that it was removing radar sensors from Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for customers in North America. Those cars now rely on a camera-based system to enable Tesla’s driver assistance features such as traffic-adjusted cruise control or automatic lane-keeping.

Looking ahead

Musk has proclaimed that he wants to increase Tesla’s vehicle sales volume to 20 million annually over the next nine years. In pursuit of that growth, Tesla is poised to start production of the Model Y crossover at its new factory in Austin, Texas, this year. It aims to open another factory in Brandenburg, Germany, after that.

The company recently moved its headquarters to Texas. The CEO announced the plan in October, and Tesla made it official in early December.

Last month, Musk wrote on Twitter, where he has about 68.4 million followers, “Giga Texas is a $10B+ investment over time, generating at least 20k direct & 100k indirect jobs.” According to public filings, Tesla plans to spend $1.6 billion on the Austin, Texas, factory in its first phase now underway.

Despite progress and ambitions in Texas, Tesla has delayed plans to start high-volume production of its Cybertruck, a distinctly angular pickup, until 2023. The company’s Semi and revamped Roadster are still in the works, too.

Industry outlook

The company now dominates battery electric vehicle sales in the U.S. and much of the world. But it is expected to lose overall market share as competitors bring out fully electric models of their own.

For example, Toyota has told investors it will invest $35 billion to bring 30 battery-electric vehicles out by 2030. Rivian recently began deliveries of its battery-electric pick-up and SUV. And Ford stopped taking reservations for its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck after receiving 200,000 orders.

Tesla’s sales are still expected to rise with overall electric vehicle demand, which is partly driven by climate regulation.

Hoping to slash air pollution from transportation, states including California and New York, are following in the footsteps of several European countries and cities, by setting a date by which they will ban sales of most gas-powered vehicles.

By 2030, about 24% of new vehicles sold worldwide are likely to be fully electric, according to forecasts from Alix Partners.

CNBC’s Jessica Bursztynsky and Jordan Novet contributed reporting.

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