Tesla ups production but falls short of Model 3 goals
Tesla Inc. sees progress ahead for the mass-market sedan that keeps falling short of targets and said a capital raise won’t be required this year, spurring a partial rebound for the electric-car maker’s battered shares and bonds.
The company led by Elon Musk built 2,020 Model 3 cars in the last seven days, trailing its target for a 2,500-unit rate for the final week of March. Tesla delivered 8,180 of the sedans in the first three months of the year, missing analysts’ average estimate for about 8,800 units in a Bloomberg News survey.
Despite the shortfall, Musk promised a speedy acceleration in the next three months. Tesla shares opened up as much as 6.9 percent and rose 3.6 percent to $261.53 as of 10:52 a.m., regaining some ground after a 22 percent slump in March.
The lower-than-expected deliveries and production will intensify the debate over Musk’s ability to deliver on his quest to bring electric cars to the masses. Mounting liquidity pressures and challenges with Model 3 production prompted Moody’s Investors Service last week to cut the carmaker’s credit rating further into junk status, adding fuel to a selloff of the company’s bonds to all-time lows.
Heading into the production results, analysts at Jefferies Group LLC and Moody’s had estimated that Tesla may need to raise $2 billion to $3 billion in capital to continue to ramp up Model 3 output. The carmaker said Tuesday it won’t “require an equity or debt raise this year, apart from standard credit lines.”
“We continue to believe Model 3 production has the ability to unlock answers calming some investors’ concerns around capital and our model and price target reflects confidence in Tesla’s ability to execute near-term,” Consumer Edge Research analyst Jamie Albertine wrote in a note to clients after the production numbers were released.
The automaker’s unsecured bonds due 2025 rose about 1 cent on the dollar to 88.125 cents at 10:26 a.m. in New York, according to Trace bond price data, after the company said it wouldn’t need to raise more capital.
“We were able to double the weekly Model 3 production rate during the quarter by rapidly addressing production and supply chain bottlenecks, including several short factory shutdowns to upgrade equipment,” Tesla said in a statement.
The company expects the Model 3 production rate will increase “rapidly” through the second quarter and said it will make 5,000 units a week in “about three months.”
Tesla delivered 11,730 Model S sedans and 10,070 Model X sport utility vehicles, with 4,060 Model S and X units in transit to customers at the end of the quarter. An additional 2,040 Model 3 electric cars were also in transit to buyers, it said.
Beyond the downgrade and the Model 3 concerns, Tesla is also grappling with a U.S. investigation of a fatal crash involving a Model X and a voluntary recall of every Model S made before April 2016. In March, Tesla’s stock price recorded is worst month since December 2010, the year the company went public.
Heading into the final week of the quarter, a Tesla executive urged line workers at the company’s sole auto-assembly plant in Fremont, California, to safely ramp up Model 3 output to more than 300 a day and “prove a bunch of haters wrong.” Musk said on Twitter Monday he was sleeping at the factory and called the car business “hell.”
The carmaker halted Model S and Model X production at the very tail of the month because it was ahead of schedule to hit first-quarter targets. A small number of those workers were invited to voluntarily help build Model 3 cars instead.
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