Tesla Model 3 delay raises cashflow risks, but analysts upbeat

Posted January 06, 2018

The electric-car maker said it delivered 1,550 Model 3 sedans in the fourth quarter, a bit more than half of the 2,917 that Wall Street analysts were expecting. The average prediction among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News this week was 2,917 deliveries. For the year gone by, Tesla delivered 102,432 vehicles, a solid increase from the 83,922 vehicles it delivered in 2016. These include the construction of new factories, the buildup of the solar and battery business, and the introduction of new models, such as the Tesla Semi, Roadster and Model Y. The Wall Street Journal reported previous year that the cars were being built partly by hand as the company struggled with its automated body-panel assembly line.

Tesla's announcement "isn't much of a surprise" because of the automaker's previously known Model 3 production problems, but if the bottlenecks continue they could cause Tesla serious problems, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com.

The stock has pared its advance to 1.05% so far during the current month, following a 0.81% increase in December. Our 1Q Model 3 delivery forecast of 8k units implies a pace of less than 700 per week. And there have been problems.

Tesla, headed by Elon Musk, has been struggling to overcome production bottlenecks and reported its biggest-ever quarterly loss in the July-September quarter. Tesla redesigned two parts of the battery assembly process, while assigning some of the blame to "manufacturing systems suppliers".

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The good news, though, is that production improvements are being made. Chevy's Bolt is surging ahead.

However, it said it made "major progress" in addressing the issues during the period, meaning its production rate grew significantly towards the end of the three month period and it has made as numerous vehicles in the weeks since Dec 9 as it did in the four months previously. Tesla had amassed an impressive 400,000-person or so waiting list, and no one was lining up to buy GM's comparatively dowdy auto months before it rolled off assembly lines.

GM is now on track to sell more than 5,000 Bolts per month by February 2018, assuming today's growth continues.

He said: "We're very grateful to everyone at Tesla who has poured their heart and soul into helping with the Model 3 ramp and creating the progress we are seeing".

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Even that figure is in jeopardy.

The company said it will "continue to focus on quality and efficiency rather than simply pushing the highest possible production in the shortest period of time".

That pace of production is still below that of many carmakers. And before that, Tesla claimed it would be able to reach that threshold by December. For now, however, Model 3s production is still stuck in first gear.

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