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Tesla’s 2021: How Elon Musk expanded the EV company in Austin

Tesla moved its HQ to Austin in a year that saw new records for the EV maker. (Tesla)

California may have been the site of innovation during Tesla's early years, but in 2021, both CEO Elon Musk and the company dug their Austin roots deeper.


Even with competitors like Apple and Ford, Austin is the home base of the company responsible for roughly two-thirds of electric vehicles on the road right now, according to Musk.

With Giga Texas on the brink of production, here are some of the year's highlights for Tesla.

Austin land

At the start of 2021, Tesla's newest gigafactory in southeast Travis County barely had the exterior structure of its 7.9-million-square-foot factory up after starting construction in late 2020. Now, almost a year later, the first phase is just about complete with office space and a Model Y quality control room.

Throughout the year, key updates were made. In April, Tesla filed plans for an additional building at the factory to be part of the “Bobcat Project.” And in July, Musk made a Q2 update from the factory, boasting more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and production of more than 200,000 vehicles.

Then in early October, Musk confirmed Tesla would move its headquarters from the Fremont, California factory to Austin. The move became official at the start of this month, with one analyst suggesting up to 50% of the 10,000 employees there may make the move to Austin.

But besides transplants, the factory has driven record job growth by joining a host of other companies that have promised to relocate or expand in Austin.

Additionally, Tesla added a new 30,000 square-foot showroom in South Austin that opened this fall.

Products

Perhaps one of the most eyed product developments is the production of the Model Y at Giga Texas, with Musk seeming hopeful about demand. Musk has said the Model Y—Tesla's midsize SUV, which starts at $46,690—will be "the best selling car or truck in the world" by next year. Giga Texas is expected to start volume production in 2022.

Another anticipated product, the Cybertruck, has faced its fair share of delays. The futuristic truck, which Tesla recently removed pricing and specs for on its website, is expected to be mass-produced in 2023.

Additionally, the affordable Model 3 and Tesla Semi will be produced at the Austin factory in time.

And outside Giga Texas production, the first Tesla Solar neighborhood—dubbed the nation's most sustainable residential community—will be built in Easton Park, a master-planned community in far Southeast Austin near McKinney Falls State Park. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.

The holidays brought a kid Cyberquad, as well as an update to the fleet that included a TikTok integration and UI changes.

It also expanded its merch in Texas-style with a Giga Texas belt buckle that sold out in less than 24 hours. This year also brought news of a Tesla eatery, Tesla beer, a mega battery for the Texas grid and even the company’s interest in selling electricity.

Jobs

Tesla hired thousands to build its local factory and has made big promises to recruit local residents, saying at least half of the Gigafactory hires will be Travis County residents.

Musk has since updated his plans for the factory, saying it will result in 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs rather than the initial 10,000 workers that were slated for the site.

However this works out, the company is making some local investments to ensure a trained workforce. Earlier this year, Tesla kicked off a manufacturing program for Austin Community College students, aimed at helping them earn certifications with both in-class lessons and lab experience. High school students can also get their start in the EV industry, with a partnership between Tesla and Del Valle school district creating a path for gigafactory jobs.

Stock

While EV competitor Rivian made an impressive market debut with the biggest American Initial Public Offering since Facebook, Tesla’s stock also showed promise this year. In October, Tesla hit the $1 trillion market cap for the first time, after which its stock shot up to more than $1,045 a share. Shares climbed 50% this year, and in the new year, it's expected to see a 28% gain.

Elon Musk

Time crowned Musk person of the year, noting the societal shift wrought by billionaires and their companies, with Musk as the richest (his current net worth is $266 billion). At the start of January, Musk became the richest person in the world, surpassing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. But the two have been neck and neck for the title, and Musk reclaimed it again in September after an Amazon stock decline.

Come summer, he cracked some jokes and became the first non-entertainer or athlete to host SNL in five years. Shortly after, in the summer Musk celebrated his birthday week with flights on his private jet from Austin to Boca Chica and to San Jose.

He’s been discreet about his housing, even while public speculation has run high. Still, he’s offered crumbs of information. In the summer, he talked about his tiny home in Boca Chica, Texas, near Starbase. But last week, the Wall Street Journal published a story on his reportedly temporary dwellings in Austin. The newspaper wrote that he lived in the home of billionaire friend and former PayPal colleague Ken Howery, which Musk denied.

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