Tesla Delivered a Record 25,021 Cars Last Quarter, But Still Lost Money

Tesla says it set a delivery record in the first piece of 2017, but the company still has many unfulfilled goals.

Tesla

Tesla said it delivered 25,021 cars in the first quarter of 2017. That's up 64 percent from the same period a year ago, and a new record, according to the automaker. It also puts Tesla on track to meet a short-term goal of delivering 47,000 to 50,000 electric cars in the first half of this year. But the company still lost money in the first quarter, and still has the all-important Model 3 launch ahead of it.

In its quarterly earnings statement, Tesla said revenue more than doubled over the same period in 2016, from $1.15 billion to $2.70 billion. However, Tesla's losses also widened, from $282.3 million in Q1 2016 to $330.3 million in 2017. Tesla said the increased losses were primarily attributable to its acquisition of SolarCity, foreign currency translation, loss attributable to non-controlling interests, and non-cash interest expense.

The financial results come shortly after Tesla's market capitalization exceeded that of Ford and General Motors, making it the most valuable U.S. automaker. The rise in stock prices is based largely on investors' hope that Tesla will achieve its goal of launching the $35,000 Model 3 later this year and successfully build 500,000 cars per year by 2018, rather than the company's current performance.

The Tesla letter said Model 3 development is "nearly complete," and that the company is currently testing so-called "release candidate" cars built using production-spec tooling for fit and finish. Tesla expects to unveil the finished product in July, build 5,000 cars per week "at some point in 2017" and ramp up to 10,000 cars a week "at some point in 2018."

Those numbers sound a bit vague, considering the tight timeframes Tesla has to work with. Because it will cost around half as much as the Model S and Model X, the Model 3 will provide the bulk of the volume for Tesla's 500,000-unit annual production goal. Tesla has missed every one of its deadlines for new car launches so far, and a slow or delayed rollout of the Model 3 would have a major impact on the planned expansion. Keep in mind that Tesla only delivered 76,230 cars in 2016.

Tesla has said it will focus more on improving the manufacturing process for the Model 3, to ensure that things go smoothly. The Model 3 will likely also be less high-tech than the Model S and Model X, making it simpler and thus easier to manufacture. But given how much Tesla has riding on the Model 3 launch, even a small delay could have big consequences.