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A Model 3 on display in a Tesla showroom in Beijing. (Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Tesla reported its fifth consecutive quarter of profitability — raking in $331 million, the most money since the run began — alongside a record number of deliveries of its electric cars.

Why it matters: Tesla has become the world's most valuable automaker. It's on the longest money-making streak in company history, despite disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details: Tesla said it had the "capacity" to produce and deliver 500,000 cars by the end of the year, per a release, but achieving the closely watched goal it set before the pandemic hit "has become more difficult."

  • The company said meeting its objective hinges in part on ramping up production of the Model Y SUV, as well as production at its factory in Shanghai.
  • Tesla has delivered 318,350 vehicles so far this year.

Of note: The automaker made $397 million from the sale of regulatory emission credits to other automakers, a move that's helped boost revenue and profit at Tesla for years.

  • That's over 5% of Tesla's automotive revenue in Q3. It's also more than double what it made from those sales this time last year.
  • The company wouldn't have been profitable this quarter without the revenue from the credit sales, as Reuters notes.

What to watch: Legacy automakers — like General Motors, which also has a stake in electric vehicle upstart Nikola — are getting more aggressive about their electric vehicle ambitions. Other would-be competitors are getting more attention from investors, with a slew of electric vehicle companies going public via SPACs.

  • Yes, but: None of those competitors has impacted Tesla's hold on the electric vehicle market. The "existential question" for Tesla is whether "that status quo is going to continue," Joseph Osha, an analyst who covers Tesla at JMP Securities, tells Axios.

Between the lines: Questions remain about whether Tesla will gain inclusion in the S&P 500 index, opening it up to the roughly $11 trillion worth of investment funds that track the index, per Bloomberg.

  • The company met the final requirement for eligibility — four consecutive quarters of profitability — last quarter. But in a surprising move, Tesla was passed over when the index's committee switched up components in September.
  • Tesla's stock price has run up an eye-popping 409% this year. The stock rose as much as 4% after the company reported earnings.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 20, 2020 - Energy & Environment

GM aims to take on Tesla with electric vehicle push

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

General Motors announced Thursday that it is increasing its investment in electric vehicles and autonomous tech to $27 billion through 2025 — $7 billion more than prior plans — as it seeks a top global position.

Why it matters: It's the clearest sign yet that GM is hoping to challenge Tesla, which dominates U.S. electric vehicle sales. It was already on, but now the competition for the electric vehicle market of the future is really on.

Updated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Sen. Kelly Loeffler to return to campaign trail after 2nd negative test

Sen. Kelly Loeffler addresses supporters during a rally on Thursday. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Sen. Kelly Loeffler's (R-Ga.) campaign announced Monday that she "looks forward to getting back out on the campaign trail" after testing negative for COVID-19 for a second time, following earlier conflicting results.

Why it matters: Loeffler has been campaigning at events ahead of a Jan. 5 runoff in elections that'll decide which party holds the Senate majority. Vice President Mike Pence was with her on Friday.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Key government agency says Biden transition can formally begin

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that she has determined the transition from the Trump administration can formally begin.

Why it matters: Murphy, a Trump appointee, had come under fire for delaying the so-called "ascertainment" and withholding the funds and information needed for the transition to begin while Trump's legal challenges played out.