What Tesla should do to become a 'real company'

LOS ANGELES -- Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk recently predicted that the electric-vehicle manufacturer would report a first-ever quarterly profit sometime in 2013.

Doing so would make it “a real company,” Musk added.

But what also makes an automaker a legitimate entity is reporting its monthly vehicle sales along with the rest of the industry -- something Tesla has refused to do so far.

It’s understandable that, during a startup automaker’s early days, people might read too much into fluctuating sales numbers. Startup companies have hiccups for all sorts of reasons, none of which have any connection to the viability of the company or its product.

Tesla spokeswoman Shanna Hendricks offered this explanation: “Given that we are a single-product company in our ramp phase, month-to-month production or delivery data isn't necessarily indicative of our quarterly results.”

But, still, Tesla watchers must wait nearly four months for key sales data. Why that long?

Tesla reports its sales and manufacturing numbers on a quarterly basis, in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That means the public won’t know how Tesla did in October, November and December until Feb. 20, when the automaker’s fourth-quarter earnings are released.

There’s no requirement for reporting monthly sales numbers. It’s just something every major player does. It’s also an important and vital measuring stick.

So if Tesla wishes to be seen as a real player -- especially as its projected 2013 sales goal of 20,000 units would surpass Jaguar’s U.S. tally for 2012 -- then Tesla needs to start reporting like one.

Such a move might have another benefit: Putting Tesla on the same plane as its more-established rivals -- and above the ranks of fledgling EV makers struggling to get their footing.

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