How Tesla Makes Money

Tesla electric car sales make up the biggest share of revenue

Tesla Inc. (TSLA) has grown rapidly into one of the world's largest all-electric vehicle companies through the sale of cars and pickup trucks in the U.S., China, and other countries throughout the world. It has even become the most valuable automaker in the world by market capitalization. Tesla's automotive segment accounts for the vast majority of revenue and profits at the Austin-headquartered company.

Tesla faces growing competition from other major automakers who are developing and marketing electric vehicles, including General Motors Co. (GM), China-based Nio Inc. (NIO), as well as German-based automakers Volkswagen AG (VOW3) and Daimler AG (DMLRY).

Key Takeaways

  • Tesla makes, sells, and services all-electric vehicles in the U.S., Europe, and China. It also sells energy generation products.
  • The company gets the vast majority of its revenue and all of its profits from automotive sales.
  • Tesla is experiencing rapid growth in China.
  • Tesla is facing investigations from regulators in different countries concerning safety-related issues with the electric automaker's vehicles.
  • The company was recently sued by a California regulatory agency on allegations of racial discrimination and harassment at its factory in Fremont, CA.

Tesla Financials

Tesla announced in late January financial results for its 2021 fiscal year (FY), which ended Dec. 31, 2021. Net income attributable to the company's common shareholders rose 665.5% during the year to $5.5 billion. Revenue expanded to $53.8 billion, up 70.7% compared to the previous year. Gross profit, which Tesla uses as a profitability metric for its individual business segments, increased 105.2% to $13.6 billion.

As much as 44.5% of Tesla's revenue was generated within the U.S. during FY 2021, up 57.6% compared to FY 2020. Revenue from China more than doubled over the year and now accounts for about 25.7% of total revenue. The remaining 29.7% of annual revenue was generated in other countries throughout the world.

In its earnings release, Tesla said that its vehicle deliveries were up 87% in FY 2021. The company is looking to increase its manufacturing capacity as quickly as possible. It has begun to ramp up production at its new factories in Austin, TX, and Berlin while attempting to maximize output at its established factories in Fremont, CA, and Shanghai. However, Tesla continues to face ongoing global supply chain challenges, which are limiting its ability to operate at full capacity.

Tesla Business Segments

Tesla operates through two main business segments: automotive and energy generation and storage. The company provides revenue and gross profit metrics for each segment, as we show below and in the pie charts above.


Tesla's automotive segment comprises the design, development, manufacturing, sales, and leasing of electric vehicles, as well as the sale of automotive regulatory credits. The segment, which accounts for 95% of total revenue and all of the company's gross profit, also includes non-warranty after-sales vehicle services, sales of used vehicles, retail merchandise, and vehicle insurance revenue. The segment posted a gross profit of $13.7 billion in FY 2021, up 107.7% compared to the previous year. Revenue rose 72.8% to $51.0 billion.

Energy generation and storage

The energy generation and storage segment, which accounts for 5% of total revenue, includes the design, manufacture, installation, sales, and leasing of solar energy generation and energy storage products and related services as well as sales of solar energy systems incentives. The segment posted a gross loss of $129 million in FY 2021, a significant deterioration from the gross profit of $18 million reported in FY 2020. Revenue for the segment rose 39.9% to $2.8 billion.

Tesla Recent Developments

On Feb. 21, 2022, a German newspaper reported that Tesla's Autopilot technology was being probed by German regulators. The safety of the technology, which functions as an automated lane-changing system in the automaker's vehicles, is being investigated by the motor transportation authorities of Germany. Tesla also faces a second probe from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after reports of "phantom braking" of the company's vehicles at high speeds, a potential malfunction where the automated braking system applies the vehicle's brakes to prevent a collision but there is nothing there with which to collide.

On Feb. 10, 2022, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a California regulatory agency, sued Tesla for alleged racial discrimination and harassment. The allegation states that the electric automaker ignored years of complaints from Black workers at Tesla's main manufacturing plant in Fremont, CA.

On Feb. 3, 2022, Reuters reported that Tesla was recalling 817,000 vehicles in the U.S. due to a malfunction of the audible seatbelt reminder alert in certain vehicle models. To address the issue, the report said that Tesla would perform an over-the-air software update.

How Tesla Reports Diversity and Inclusiveness

As part of our effort to improve the awareness of the importance of diversity in companies, we offer investors a glimpse into the transparency of Tesla and its commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and social responsibility. We examined the data Tesla releases to show you how it reports the diversity of its board and workforce to help readers make educated purchasing and investing decisions.

Below is a table of potential diversity measurements. It shows whether Tesla discloses its data about the diversity of its board of directors, C-Suite, general management, and employees overall, as is marked with a ✔. It also shows whether Tesla breaks down those reports to reveal the diversity of itself by race, gender, ability, veteran status, and LGBTQ+ identity.

Tesla Diversity & Inclusiveness Reporting
  Race Gender Ability Veteran Status Sexual Orientation
Board of Directors        
General Management          
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Article Sources
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  1. Statista. "Global market value of carmakers as of October 26, 2021 by market cap."

  2. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Tesla Inc. Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021," Page 50.

  3. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Tesla Inc. Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021," Page 94.

  4. Tesla Inc. "Q4 and FY2021 Update," Page 3.

  5. Tesla Inc. "Q4 and FY2021 Update," Page 9.

  6. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Tesla Inc. Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021," Page 4.

  7. CNBC. "Tesla’s Autopilot feature is reportedly being investigated by German regulators."

  8. Tesla Inc. "Tesla Sued by California Agency for Alleged Racial Discrimination, Harassment."

  9. Reuters. "Tesla recalls 817,000 vehicles in U.S. over seat belt reminder alert."

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