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Elon Musk may have done it again

In Q1 2012 Elon Musk's electric vehicle startup Tesla Motor Comp. (TSLA) accelerated its losses, pouring out $89.9M USD in losses.  That's nearly twice the $48.9M USD it lost a year ago.

I. Model S -- Ahead of Schedule, the Perfect Panacea for Losses

Revenue for the quarter dropped from $49M USD in Q4 2011 to $30.2M USD in Q1 2012.    The drop comes as Tesla stopped its Roadster sales in North American.  Tesla continues to sell limited quantities of ~$100K Roadster electric sportscars in some other regions, and it's still drawing revenue from certain business deals.  But overall, the company's current flows of revenue are drying up.

Much like SpaceX, the other venture of Mr. Musk -- who often draws comparisons to the Marvel Comics character Tony Stark -- Tesla is in the midst of a massive R&D push.  And that push appears to be about to pay off.

Tesla Elon Musk
Tesla Motor Company CEO Elon Musk [Image Source: Michael Kelley]

In the good news department, Tesla announced that it will begin shipping its Model S electric sedan to preorder customers early -- next month.  Priced at $57,400 USD, the sedan will be $49,900 USD after $7,500 USD federal electric vehicle tax credit.  Despite costing half the price of a Roadster, the Model S is expected to offer sporty peformance, thanks to lessons learned from the Roadster experiment.

Tesla was profitable during the Roadster era, but post IPO plunged into debt to develop the new mid-range luxury electric sedan, which is expected to sell in much larger quantities.

2012, Tesla says is a "year of two halves", with next month's Model S launch as the dividing line.  The company has 10,000 preorders for the car and hopes to deliver 5,000 this year.
 
Tesla Model S [Source: Tesla Motors]

CEO Elon Musk says much of what is remaining is just paperwork.  He comments, "Once we complete and document the tests, we will be able to sell our vehicles in the United States."

The earlier-than-expected ship date for the Model S allowed Tesla to up its annual revenue estimate $10M USD, up to $560M-600M USD.  In other words, Tesla expects to be pulling in over $175M USD per quarter -- almost six times its current revenue.  Stock jumped nearly 10 percent on optimism about the Model S.

Even with extra costs, hopes are high that 2013 will indeed be as profitable as Tesla hopes.

Perhaps in part due to Mr. Musk's veteran leadership, Tesla continues to deliver on risky bids in a market that has seen many of its competitors like Fisker crash and burn.  Thus far Tesla's products have received glowing reviews even as startups and experienced players like General Motors (GM) faced more mixed reception.  Likewise, Tesla was never short on Roadster orders -- only production.  That's a bit different from GM whose Volt sales have reportedly struggled.

II. Future Looks Bright

In the short term, the next step is the Model X -- an electric crossover SUV featuring a slick gull-wing rear-passenger door design.  Tesla has already posted $40M USD in preorders on the model before a price has even been announced.  Production follows a similar model to the Model S, with ten to fifteen thousand units expected to eventually be shipped per year.


Tesla Model X [Source: Automobile Magazine]

Tesla will also be building the powertrain for Mercedes-Benz's EV.

Tesla will also start to profit off its deal with Toyota Motor Corp. (TYO:7203) whose ~$50K USD electric RAV4 SUV will launch later this year, powered by a Tesla powertrain.  Toyota's goal is to ship a modest 2,600 units over the next 3 years.

If Tesla's bid to creep into the mid-range market proves successful, the natural next step would be to take yet another high-risk plunge into the non-luxury EV market.  Don't expect that move to come immediately from Tesla, but it is definitely in the company's long term sights.  

Source: AP



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RE: Good to know
By JediJeb on 5/11/2012 6:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
With a range pushing 200 miles, the Model S is getting to what I would think of as a useful vehicle. Now as soon as it comes down in price to what I can afford I would seriously look at it as something to purchase, but right now even the Leaf is beyond my ability to purchase. Maybe in a few years once other things are paid off and the price drops a little more I will consider one. The other think I want to see before I purchase one is durability. I never keep a vehicle less than 7 years, most I have had 10 plus and my current one I have had since 96, so that will be something I factor in too. EVs haven't gotten there yet for me, but when the finally make sense to own I may buy one.


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