Musk defends Tesla’s path after earnings disappoint
Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday defended his company’s business trajectory after reporting higher-than-expected negative earnings.
The company, which has a knack for both enamoring and enraging investors, disclosed the losses and future plans in an earnings report filed Wednesday.
The company reported a non-GAAP, which stands for “generally accepted accounting principles,” per share loss of $1.06, or about $150 million, which was more than analysts expected. Tesla’s GAAP losses were $2.09 per share or $293 million.
Overall, Tesla recorded revenue of $1.56 billion which was a 30 percent improvement from the same period a year prior. Revenue was close to analyst expectations.
“As a manufacturing company our percentage growth I think it is unprecedented,” Musk said during a conference call in response to an analyst who asked when the company would turn profitable. “It is real important to parse things out and to understand what the real health of the business is.”
Musk and Tesla CFO Jason Wheeler said the company, which produced just 600 cars in 2010 and is projected to produce about 80,000 this year and 500,000 in 2018, is well on the road to profitability.
“There are a lot of investments we already made … that we would get to continue leveraging as we grow capacity,” Wheeler said.
In the second quarter Tesla delivered 14,402 new vehicles, including 9,764 Model S and 4,638 Model X. It produced 18,345 vehicles, which was an increase of 18 percent from the first quarter and 43 percent over the second quarter last year.
Tesla is also working toward production of the Model 3, the highly anticipated vehicle that at $35,000 will be Tesla’s attempt at capturing mid-market sales.
To that end, the letter to shareholders anticipated spending another $2.25 billion on capital expenditures by the end of the year in order to meet production goals.
Tesla reported 373,000 Model 3 deposits worth $288 million.
Production is slated to start by July 1, but during the call Musk hedged a bit on what the date really meant.
“I don’t expect us to be at full production on July 1. But I have to drive all suppliers and internal efforts to that date knowing that some will fall short,” he said.
If Tesla misses production goals or deadlines it wouldn’t be a first for the company.
In the previous quarter it missed Model S and X production goals of 17,000 by about 3,000.
“We were in production hell for the first six months of this year,” Musk said. “Now the production line is humming and suppliers mostly have their (expletive) together.
The company is still sitting on about $3.2 billion in cash. Last month Musk hinted it could ask investors for, “a modest capital raise.”
Not everyone bought Musk’s reasoning.
Anton Wahlman, an analyst who holds Tesla shares short, which means he expects the stock to perform poorly, wrote that the company is moving away from profitability.
“No scale economies are being achieved, and if anything it's getting worse,” he wrote. “One certainly gets the sense that Tesla is hoping for some sort of political bailout or other new subsidy scheme to arrive on the horizon, and is papering things over to that point.”
In addition to trying to meet Model 3 production goals, Tesla is attempting to acquire solar panel producer SolarCity in a transaction that could cost $2.6 billion.
It’s also continuing construction on a $5 billion battery factory in Storey County with the help of Panasonic Corp.
Tesla is betting the factory will dramatically increase production and improve efficiency by as much as 30 percent.
But it remains to be seen if the company’s “physics-first” approach to factory building will realize the gains Musk anticipates.
The approach calls for better utilizing machines to do the work and increasing the percentage of space that’s filled with productive activity.
“You have to design the machine that makes the machine,” he said. “At the point at which the factory looks like an alien dreadnought you know you have won.”
RGJ reporter Ben Spillman gets a feel of the unique acceleration of the electric Tesla Model S on Tuesday.