Tesla Posts Record Q3 Sales While Chip Shortage Trounces Rest of Auto Industry

The third quarter of 2021 was good news for Tesla, and just about no other car company.

Just how bad is the global semiconductor chip shortage? Pick the anecdote you want to bear this out. Because everyone bought so many Peloton bikes and Nintendo Switches when they were stuck inside last year—and automakers don’t have the components to keep up with demand—there are very few rental cars available, Toyota cut its production forecast for the coming months by 40 percent and General Motors is on track for its worst sales year since 1958. As the data from Q3 2021 rolls out, there’s apparently one shining light in the darkness, and it’s Tesla. 

The now Austin, Texas-based automaker (which is an unusual thing to see on a Tesla press release) this weekend said that it produced 237,823 vehicles this past quarter and delivered 241,300 of them. As The Verge reported, that’s more than 100,000 cars over the same quarter last year, and Tesla’s best sales quarter ever. In fact, GM sold only fewer than twice that number in Q3, and it’s admittedly a much larger company. 

Guillaume Fournier

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that his company has largely (thus far, anyway) been able to avoid the chip headaches faced by other automakers by sourcing chips from different suppliers and having its teams rewrite code on the fly when it did. As he said on an earnings call this summer: “It’s not just a matter of swapping out a chip; you also have to rewrite the software.” And while it’d be arrogant to assume Tesla is permanently immune to a problem dogging the rest of the business, Musk has said he views the shortage as a short-term problem as opposed to a lingering one. And Ford CEO Jim Farley also told The Drive this summer that he feels we’re past the worst point of this supply chain crisis, and that “the chip situation is getting better.” 

We’ll find out on Monday if Farley was right, because that’s when Ford is set to release its Q3 sales figures. But the rest of the auto industry did not have a nice story to tell. According to Automotive News, ultra-popular Subaru reported a 30 percent sales decline in September, Volkswagen and Audi were off by eight and 14 percent, respectively, Hyundai was down slightly year-over-year and Nissan was down in Q3 by 10 percent, leaving basically no supply of its volume-selling Rogue crossover. 

In other words, it’s just a bad time all around if you’re car shopping. Have you been trying to buy a new car lately? What has your experience been like? 

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