Canadian Manufacturing

Tesla confirms March reveal for US$35K Model 3

Musk-helmed automaker reported a hefty 11th straight loss, but shares soared on economy model's timeline

Tesla's results missed analyst expectations, but investors sent shares up regardless, responding to revised pricing of the company's much-anticipated economical Model 3. PHOTO: Tesla

Tesla’s results missed analyst expectations, but investors sent shares up regardless, responding to the confirmed timeline for the company’s much-anticipated economical Model 3. PHOTO: Tesla

DETROIT—Tesla Motors posted its 11th straight quarterly loss Wednesday, and its results badly missed Wall Street’s forecasts. But the electric car maker’s shares soared anyway on news that its lower-priced Model 3 sedan is on schedule to be released next year.

Tesla said it will unveil the much-anticipated $35,000 car on March 31 and expects to start production at the end of 2017.

CEO Elon Musk said he’s not worried about competition from the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, which will have a similar price tag and range and will go on sale at one year before the Model 3. He noted that Model S sedan sales rose in 2015 even as luxury competitors like the Audi A7 and Lexus LS fell.

“Tesla is approximately doubling its cumulative sales every year. I think that’s pretty exciting and unusual,” Musk said on a conference call with analysts and media.

Tesla’s shares had fallen in recent days as investors worried that the Model 3 would be delayed. Investors also weren’t happy with the slow ramp-up of Tesla’s new Model X SUV. The company delivered only 206 SUVs in the fourth quarter and it curtailed production last month to work out some quality issues.

But Tesla said Wednesday it’s accelerating Model X production and expects to make 1,000 SUVs per week by the second quarter.

The Model X has Falcon Wing rear doors with built in sensors for opening in garages of any height. PHOTO: Tesla Motors

Tesla says it’s accelerating production of its Model X, which premiered last year. PHOTO: Tesla Motors

Musk said the past few months have been “excruciating” as the company dealt with various hiccups, including problems with the Model X’s chrome door strips and large front window. He said the company added too many new features at once to the X.

“There was some hubris there, with the X,” Musk said. “The net result is that the Model X is an amazing car. I honestly think it’s the best car ever. I’m not sure anyone will make a car like this again. I’m not sure Tesla will make a car like this again.”

Despite the problems with the X, sales of the Model S—which is made at the same Fremont, California, factory—jumped 76 per cent in the fourth quarter to 17,272. Tesla delivered just over 50,000 vehicles for the year, up 60 per cent from 2014. The company said it plans to deliver between 80,000 and 90,000 vehicles this year.

Tesla shares rose 9 per cent in after-hours trading to $157. They are down 40 per cent this year through the close of regular-session trading Wednesday.

Tesla lost $889 million, or $6.93 per share, for the full year. That compared to a loss of $294 million, or $2.36 per share, in 2014.

Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which was founded in 2003, has never made a full-year profit. But the company said it’s on track to be cash-flow positive this year. It also expects to achieve an adjusted full-year profit despite a planned investment of $1.5 billion in additional production capacity in Fremont and new cell production at its battery factory in Nevada. Tesla also plans to open 80 additional service and retail centres and 300 fast-charging Supercharger stations.

In the fourth quarter, Tesla’s net loss more than doubled to $320 million, hurt by the lower-than-planned Model X production. The loss, of $2.44 per share, compared to a loss of 86 cents per share in the same quarter a year ago.

Tesla said revenue rose 27 per cent to $1.2 billion for the fourth quarter. For the full year, Tesla’s revenue rose 26 per cent to $4 billion.

Tesla Motors Inc. says unadjusted figures do not reflect its true performance because accounting rules limit how it records revenue for leases. On an adjusted basis, the company lost $2.30 per share for the year, missing Wall Street’s estimate of a $1.25 per-share loss, according to FactSet. Its fourth-quarter loss of 87 cents also far surpassed Wall Street’s estimate of a 16-cent loss.

Tesla’s adjusted full-year revenue of $5.29 billion was slightly below analysts’ forecast of $5.38 billion.

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