All eyes have been on Tesla Motors this past week as it disputed the veracity of an account of a long distance drive by The New York Times reporter John Broder. While it was somewhat amusing to watch NYT counter the original accusation of fakery made by CEO Elon Musk, only to be then publicly slapped with a handful of revelatory vehicle logs, today's release of Tesla's shareholder letter and fourth quarter financial results are certainly more relevant to the company's future. And, if Tesla manages to keep performing as it has these past few months, that future looks bright.
According to the letter, the California automaker ramped up its production to 400 units per week, building a total of 2,750 Model S sedans last quarter, bringing its yearly total to 3,100 vehicles. Of course, building cars is one thing and delivering quite another. The delivery process (in most States) involves buyers meeting with a specialist who explains the intricacies of owning and operating the car. The tricky logistics go some way to explain why Tesla delivered 2,400 units (100 units less than its target) for the quarter and around 2,650 for 2013. The next few months will see that number increase significantly with 4,500 deliveries planned for the 1st quarter of 2013.
Continuing at its current production rate, the company expects to build 20,000 all-electric machines in 2013, and CEO Elon Musk said on a conference call with analysts today that those are already sold. "I'm quite certain we will deliver more than 20,000 cars this year," he said, adding that if Tesla shut down all its stores and stopped taking orders, they'd still sell out for 2013. Tesla received an additional 6,000 new reservations in the 4th quarter of 2012, putting its net reservations – discounting deliveries and cancellations – at year end in excess of 15,000. Musk is happy about this, naturally, but is focused on figuring out, "how do we exceed the 20,000 number next year?"
Financially speaking, the numbers also look pretty positive. Tesla's quarterly loss shrunk to $90 million from $110 million in the third quarter, while revenue dramatically increased over 500 percent from the previous quarter to $306 million. That income was derived not only from Model S and a few Roadster sales, but also benefited – to the tune of $12 million – from its work on the Mercedes B-Class EV program and drivetrain shipments for the Toyota RAV4 EV.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of the financial puzzle came in a prediction in the investor letter, and we quote, "... we expect to be slightly profitable (excluding only non-cash option and warrant-related expenses) in Q1 2013." Later, during the call, Musk expanded on that point saying that the only thing that could stop Q1 profitability is a "force majeure" event, like an earthquake. He is "cautiously optimistic" about Q2, but is waiting to see how things develop before he makes as bold a claim as he is with the Q1 prediction saying, "I don't want to be overconfident. I do think we'll be profitable in Q2, and subsequent quarters, too."
You can read the investor letter and financial results for yourselves below. We'll have more from the analyst call, including information on leasing in North America and a snazzy new "awesome red" color for the Model S soon.