Tesla sets deliveries record while falling short of Elon Musk’s mark

Dana Hull
Bloomberg News

Tesla Inc. set another record for quarterly vehicle deliveries but fell short of a mark Elon Musk said was possible last week, sending the electric-car maker’s shares lower in late trading.

The electric-car maker handed over 97,000 vehicles to customers in the third quarter, exceeding the 95,356 reported for the prior three months. The figure let down investors who bid the shares up on Sept. 26 after Musk told employees they had a shot at reaching the six-figure mark for the first time. Tesla stock plunged as much as 6% after the close.

“When Elon Musk says they are aiming for 100,000 deliveries, you are hoping for 102,000. Not 97,000,” Gene Munster, a managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures, said by phone. “This is a credibility hit. This is a textbook example of Elon not being disciplined and having difficulty managing expectations.”

In this Tuesday, July 23, 2019 photo, a Tesla vehicle is parked at a new Tesla Supercharger station in Las Vegas. Analysts at Credit Suisse and RBC Capital Markets are among those predicting Tesla will post lower revenue for the third quarter than a year ago.

Tesla delivered 79,600 Model 3 sedans and 17,400 Model S cars and Model X crossovers in the quarter. Analysts were warning ahead of the report that because the company has been growing more reliant on its much cheaper sedan to grow, total average selling prices probably declined and may have dragged revenue down from a year ago. The carmaker, which last reported a decline in 2012, will release earnings in the coming weeks.

“If you look at the mix of S and X deliveries to Model 3s, profitability is likely to be a challenge,” Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush who rates Tesla the equivalent of a hold, said by phone.

Going into the quarter, Tesla said its order backlog was expanding. It announced in July it would no longer disclose the number of vehicles in transit to customers every three months.

Tesla didn’t say in its statement Wednesday whether it’s still expecting to deliver 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles this year. The company will have to hand over more than 100,000 cars in the last three months of the year to hit the low end of that forecast.

“Just as they tend to move their sales to the end of each quarter, they also tend to go out in the fourth quarter with a bit of a bang, so I think they’ll get there,” Alan Baum, an independent auto analyst in West Bloomfield, Michigan, said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Tesla doesn’t disclose deliveries by region, but the U.S., China, Norway and the Netherlands were its biggest sources of revenue in the second quarter.

That pecking order may have changed in the latest three-month period. Tesla topped the Dutch sales charts last month, boosted by tax incentives that can save drivers several hundreds of euros a month on vehicle leases. The government plans to dial back some of those subsidies next year.