Tesla finally made a profit without the help of emission credits

Tesla sold enough cars and energy products to turn a profit even without counting the sale of emissions credits to other automakers — a milestone for the company. This was the eighth profitable quarter in a row for Tesla, but the first where it can truly say it’s a profitable automaker.

Tesla shared Monday that it logged a $1.1 billion profit in the second quarter of 2021, with $354 million of that coming from credit sales. The rest came from automotive sales, as well as a boost in energy storage sales.

Tesla pulled this off despite taking a loss of $23 million on its big Bitcoin bet (something that had helped it to a profit last quarter), a delayed rollout of the revamped Model S sedan and Model X SUV, and the global semiconductor shortage. All told, Tesla generated $11.9 billion in revenue in the quarter.

The Model 3 sedan and Model Y compact SUV dominated Tesla’s sales again, proving once more that there’s a market for more affordable electric cars. Tesla delivered over 200,000 Model 3s and Model Ys in the quarter, compared to the 1,895 Model S sedans sold.

It’s clear that the Model Y’s initial success has been enough to give the company a boost, but it’s hard to say exactly how big that boost is since Tesla doesn’t break out sales by individual model. Same with China. Tesla doesn’t break out sales by country, but it has been delivering locally made cars from its factory outside Shanghai for more than a year, and that has helped the company continue to grow its business. In fact, Tesla said Monday that it considers the factory in China to be its “primary vehicle export hub.”

Tesla will have even more capacity when it starts making vehicles at the two factories it’s building in Texas and Germany. While the latter has been slow-going thanks to environmental violations and red tape, Tesla’s Texas factory is being built nearly as fast as the one the company constructed in China. These other factories not only lower the cost to selling cars in a given region, they also make up for the fact that Tesla’s original factory in California has been pretty much operating at its limit for a while now.

It’s the scale of that expansion into a truly global automaker that has finally allowed Tesla to get into the black even without the aid of regulatory credits — something Tesla needed to prove it can do considering the automakers it’s spent years selling these credits to are now creating electric vehicles and will no longer need to buy regulatory offsets.

Growing the automotive business to a global scale has come at the expense of some other projects, though, as Tesla shared Monday that it has once again delayed the launch of its Semi truck until 2022. Tesla has said that the vehicle is basically ready for production, but that making the trucks at scale would cannibalize the availability of the company’s next-generation 4680 battery cells — which it needs for the Cybertruck and the Model Y that will be built in Texas.

Tesla also gave an update on the development of that 4680 cell, which was announced last year at the company’s Battery Day event. Tesla said “substantial progress has been made” but that there is “work ahead of us before we can achieve volume production,” especially with regards to refining the manufacturing process for the cells. The company said it has, however, successfully crash-tested the new design for its vehicles where these cells will be built into the structural frame.