Tesla CEO Elon Musk told employees in a Wednesday night email that the company has a “good chance” of beating its record for deliveries this quarter. That record was set in the final quarter of 2018, when Tesla delivered just over 90,000 cars, 63,000 of which were Model 3s. Tesla previously predicted in April it would deliver around that many cars this quarter, but Wall Street’s expectations had soured recently.
Breaking the record, or even coming close, would mark a huge rebound for Tesla, which saw its total deliveries drop to just 63,000 in the first quarter of 2019 as it began selling the Model 3 in Europe and China. That drop meant the company went from generating its first ever back-to-back profits in the second half of 2018 to posting a $702 million loss in the first quarter of this year, its fourth-worst quarterly loss ever.
“In order to achieve this [record], we need sustained output of 1,000 Model 3’s per day,” Musk said in the email, which was obtained by Business Insider. Musk said in a November 2018 leaked email that Tesla had reached the milestone of making 1,000 Model 3s per day, but the company apparently didn’t sustain that output. Tesla is expected to announce second quarter delivery numbers at the beginning of July.
Musk added: “If we rally hard, we can do it!”
Literal rallying cries from Musk like this one are not rare, especially late in a financial quarter, like that one from last November. And this one, like some others, comes at a particularly precarious time for Tesla.
Tesla’s stock is currently trading at a two-year low. The company just raised $2.7 billion to help stop the financial bleeding suffered in the first quarter, but Musk told employees in another email leaked last week that Tesla needs to make “hardcore” changes to its spending practices to ensure it doesn’t spend through all its cash. Those changes will include Musk and Tesla’s chief financial officer approving employee expenditures, building on a number of hands-on cost-cutting efforts started last year.
The email also comes at a time when doubts about Tesla’s performance have spread through Wall Street, even among some of the most supportive analysts and firms. Two days ago, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas lowered his worst-case expectation for Tesla’s stock. Baird and Loup Ventures, two more firms typically bullish about Tesla, have also lowered expectations.
In a conference call with Morgan Stanley clients that leaked on Wednesday, Jonas explained why his views about Tesla have sobered. “Supply [of the company’s cars] exceeds demand. They’re burning cash. Nobody cares about the Model Y,” he said on the call, a recording of which was heard by The Verge. While Tesla raised new capital this month, it was near the low end of the amount analysts like Jonas thinks the company needs, he said. He also expressed worry about the billions of dollars in debt that remains on Tesla’s books, despite the company paying off a $920 million convertible bond in March.
Tesla has gone from “a growth story to a distressed credit and restructuring story” between late 2018 and now, Jonas said.
Jonas said demand for Tesla’s cars is at the heart of his concerns, and he’s not alone. Tesla has faced constant questions throughout 2019 about the demand for its cars, despite the fact that the Model 3 became the best-selling EV in the world last year.
Tesla has sold hundreds of thousands of cars in North America, but most of them cost as much, if not far more, than the average selling price for a vehicle in the US. The cheapest, $35,000 version of the Model 3 finally arrived in February, but it isn’t as easy to buy as Tesla’s other cars, the price has already increased the cost by $400, and the company’s been accused of up-selling customers on more expensive versions. Buyers of Tesla’s cars are also no longer eligible for the full federal EV tax credit. The company’s weaker first quarter combined with its unwillingness (or inability) to sell cars at lower prices has some experts worried about the company’s ambitions to serve massive amounts of consumers.
Tesla “built this hulking physical infrastructure to supply more like a million cars a year, not 350,000 cars a year, and that’s what’s creating this bleeding,” Jonas said on the call.
Tesla also admitted it pushed so hard to finish 2018 on a high note that it may have logged sales that otherwise could have happened in the first quarter of 2019. That dip should have been buoyed by the Model 3’s entrance into the European and Chinese markets, but Tesla ran into issues with both rollouts. The European launch was slightly marred by logistics issues — ones that prompted Musk to fly to Europe to personally supervise. The Chinese launch has recovered from early stumbles, but is now at further risk thanks to retaliatory tariffs on Tesla’s cars due to the ongoing trade war.
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