Tesla's Cash Bleed Slows for Q4 2017

After a surge of customer reservations, Tesla inches towards profitability.

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On the night of February 7, just hours after one of its cars was sent hurtling toward Mars, Tesla reported its fourth-quarter earnings for 2017. It posted $276.7 million in losses for that quarter—that’s a good chunk of change to lose, but it’s a small price compared to the $1.4 billion Tesla spent in quarter three.

Tesla’s cash burn has no doubt been alleviated by the thousands of cash reservations that customers have put down on the Model 3, Semi, and new Tesla Roadster. Model 3 production is ramping up slowly with 1,542 cars delivered in Q4. This is a significant step up from the 222 Model 3s produced in Q3, but still nowhere near the 5,000 car per week production goal that Elon Musk is aiming for by August of 2018. Tesla also stressed that Model 3 reservation numbers have not been negatively affected by the car’s production issues. Combined sales of all Tesla models totaled 29,967, a 28 percent increase compared to the previous year.

Tesla is also planning for a fully autonomous vehicle to complete a coast-to-coast drive sometime in 2018, although similar plans made more than a year ago never came to fruition. It opened 12 Tesla stores in Q4, making a network of 330 dealers worldwide. Then, Tesla’s Mobile Service fleet also increased to 230. It claims that Mobile Service is available all over North America and costs less than repairs made at a traditional service center.

Tesla acknowledged plans to produce both the Semi and Roadster but did not state when they may be expected to go into production. It will test the Semi in the real world by using them to deliver Model 3 components to its Gigafactory.

Tesla also claims that Model 3 sales, as well as its production of renewable energy products, will push it to produce a positive income “at some point in 2018.” Investor reaction since the earnings report has been overwhelmingly negative with Tesla stock falling nearly 10 percent by the market’s close on Friday.