Why Tesla Model 3 Deliveries Missed the Mark

Tesla now expects to achieve a weekly production rate of around 2,500 Model 3 vehicles by the end of the first quarter

Chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja said during an earnings call in November that cash flow will improve significantly once Tesla ramps up Model 3 output because the company will collect money from customers before paying its suppliers.

But it was already hard to see how Tesla can sell the Model 3 at its $35,000 starting price and pull in 25 percent gross margins, which are typical of higher-end luxury cars, Brinkman said.

On the back of these revelations, shares in Tesla fell by 1.7 per cent to $312 in after-market trading.

Model 3 production rate exiting 4Q17 easily 50% above our pace of delivery forecast for 1Q.

Tesla's announcement "isn't much of a surprise" because of the automaker's previously known Model 3 production problems, but if the bottlenecks continue they could cause Tesla serious problems, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com. After selecting the Model S Sedan with a 100 kWh battery, Tesla's trip planner tells me the 12-hour trip will be broken up by a 20 minute charge in Bourges, a 25 minute pit stop in Clermont-Ferrand, a 40 minute charge in Albaret-Sainte-Marie and then one last 40-minute top-up in Narbonne before hopping over the border to Barcelona.

However, the delays intensify the rate at which Tesla is burning cash-US$1.1 billion in the third quarter and about the same estimated for the last quarter of 2017-and worrying investors, who have yet to see a profit from Tesla.

Only 1,550 Model 3s were delivered in 2017's fourth quarter, the company said in an online statement Wednesday. "The company has now said it is focused on quality versus volume, which is the right focus". But early versions of the Model 3 suffered battery quality problems, and it's not clear whether those have been sufficiently resolved.

Including Model S sedans and Model X crossovers, Tesla delivered a total of 29,870 vehicles during the fourth quarter. Tesla delivered 103,082 cars in 2017, a 36% increase over 2016.

Slow production could affect the number of Model 3 buyers who receive the $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit, and it is unclear whether this may drive away buyers, said Cowen analyst Jeffrey Osborne. But Tesla has skipped many incremental steps used by established carmakers when launching new products.

"Tesla has really lofty goals for automation", Tasha Keeney, an analyst at ARK Investment Management, which holds Tesla shares, said in a phone interview. Tesla said it was its "all-time best quarter" for combined Model S and Model X deliveries.

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