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Tesla stock falls on Model 3 delays

Model 3 production delays mean postponed sales could exacerbate the company's cash burn

Alexandria Sage & Arjun Panchadar | Reuters  |  San Francisco 

Tesla introducing one of the first Model 3 cars off the Fremont factory's production line during an event earlier this year 	REUTERS
Tesla introducing one of the first Model 3 cars off the Fremont factory’s production line during an event earlier this year | Reuters

on Wednesday pushed back its target for volume production on its new by about three months, saying it was difficult to predict how long it would take to fix all production bottlenecks. The firm also reported its biggest quarterly loss ever, sending shares down nearly 5 per cent after hours as the loss was bigger than analysts had expected.

Tesla, led by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk, faces a crucial test in its growth strategy as it ramps up production of the Model 3, its new sedan that starts at $35,000, about half the price of its flagship Model S.

Although has made inroads among luxury car buyers with the advanced technology and innovative design in its Model S sedan and Model X SUV, it is the Model 3 on which its long-term viability rests. The company continues to burn through cash, and spent $1.1 billion in capital expenditures in the third quarter. The company said it now expects to build 5,000 Model 3s per week by late in the first quarter of 2018 from its original target date of December. said the main constraint was its battery module assembly line at its Nevada Gigafactory, where the company had to redesign part of the production process.

“I was really depressed about three or four weeks ago,” said, adding that he is now optimistic because it is clear what needs to be done. “We are on it, we’ve got it covered,” but it will take a few months longer than expected, he said. The Palo Alto, California-based company made just 260 Model 3 sedans in the third quarter due to what it called “production bottlenecks.” It had planned to build more than 1,500.

Model 3 production delays mean postponed sales could exacerbate the company’s cash burn. The problems could also worry the over 500,000 customers who have put down a refundable deposit on the car.

Adding to the pressure is the fact that US tax credits for buyers, intended to help manufacturers ramp up electric vehicles, begin to expire after the company sells its 200,000th vehicle in the United States.

The company has not said when that will be, but it has sold 250,000 globally. Shares of have fallen nearly 17 per cent from a 12-month high of $385 in September, but are still up 50 per cent from January fueled by a belief in the long-term prospects of the company. Tesla’s soaring stock has made the company the second-most valuable US automaker behind General Motors Co, which had annual net profit of $9.4 billion in 2016.

could face major new requirements for cash given Model 3 problems, a possible factory in China, and plans to develop other vehicles, including an electric heavy duty truck.

But said he did not expect any significant capital expenditures for until 2019, adding that he envisions a factory producing at least a couple hundred thousand vehicles per year for the Chinese market.

said it was “well capitalized” for the delayed Model 3 production schedule and predicted capital expenditures of about $1 billion in the fourth quarter. That, together with spending in the third quarter, matched Tesla’s August estimate of $2 billion in capital expenditures for the second half of the year.

reported that cash and cash equivalents rose to $3.53 billion on Sept. 30 from $3.04 billion at the end of the second quarter, but in August raised $1.8 billion by selling debt. It also spent $325 million to repay a credit facility in the quarter.

The price of the $1.8 billion eight-year junk bond issued by last August also fell after the quarterly report.

Tesla’s continued need for cash is exacerbated by Musk’s insistence on vertical integration, such as making its own batteries and selling cars directly to customers. That, industry experts say, is among the reasons is nowhere close to its aggressive goal of building 500,000 vehicles annually by next year, most of them Model 3s.

First Published: Fri, November 03 2017. 02:54 IST
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