Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) posted relatively poor earnings. However, if the number of cars an auto company sells is a major key to success, Tesla continues to be on the right road. The electric car company said it will deliver 360,000 to 400,000 cars this year, up 45% to 65% compared with 2018.
Among the worries investors have expressed about Tesla is that the American appetite for electric cars has nearly peaked. This means that even if Tesla adds autopilots and increases the distance it cars can go, drivers in the United States will stick with their gasoline-powered cars and hybrids. Many hybrids get low enough gas mileage that drivers who want good mileage or a green environment are happy with their engines.
Tesla’s expectations, which are often wrong, even when they are officially posted, would nearly prove the assertion of founder Elon Musk. Tesla can sell 500,000 cars a year, in part because of the availability of its relatively inexpensive Model 3. The low price of the Model 3 is supposed to be $35,000. In reality, most versions of the model cost well over $45,000.
Tesla’s forecast for the balance of the year:
Although we are driving towards higher internal goals, we reaffirm our prior guidance of 360,000 to 400,000 vehicle deliveries in 2019, representing an increase of approximately 45% to 65% compared to 2018. Please note that vehicle production will be significantly higher than deliveries, as it takes several weeks to transport cars from California to distant customers, especially in other countries, where they must also be processed by customs. Deliveries, production and customer orders, which are all materially different, are often conflated when analyzing Tesla.
If our Gigafactory Shanghai is able to reach volume production early in Q4 this year, we may be able to produce as many as 500,000 vehicles globally in 2019. This is an aggressive schedule, but it is what we are targeting. However, based on what we know today, being able to produce over 500,000 vehicles globally in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2020 does appear very likely.
The “if” about China should give investors pause.
Otherwise, the numbers were fairly ugly. Revenue was $4.5 billion, up from $3.4 billion in the first quarter of 2018. The company lost $702 million in the most recent quarter, compared with $710 million in last year’s first quarter.
Will Tesla ever make money again? The realistic answer is that it will be a major struggle.