SAN FRANCISCO -- Tesla Motors Inc. will delay the first deliveries of its Model X crossover until the third quarter of 2015 to ensure the all-electric vehicle will “delight customers,” the automaker said Wednesday as it reported a wider third-quarter loss.
“There’s no big thing” delaying the Model X, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told analysts Wednesday. “There are a whole bunch of little things. It’s really about getting the details right. I think people will appreciate that we got the details right.”
Tesla posted a net loss of $74.7 million in the third quarter under generally accepted accounting principles, better than analysts had expected, which sent Tesla shares upward after the close of trading on Wednesday.
Revenue during the period nearly doubled to $851.8 million from $431.3 million on record vehicle sales during the period. The company lost $38.5 million in the third quarter of 2013.
Tesla delivered a record 7,785 Model S cars during the third quarter. That was slightly below its previous guidance of 7,800, but up 42 percent from the same quarter a year ago.
Operating costs rise
Operating expenses, mostly r&d tied to Model S engineering upgrades and the Model X launch, rose from $133 million to $291 million in the third quarter. Capital outlays in the fourth quarter will reach $350 million, mostly to hike production capacity, it said.
Tesla is investing heavily to expand in markets in Asia and Europe while also developing the Model X. Research and development costs rose 28 percent in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. Overhead expenses rose 18 percent, and the company spent $284 million on capital outlays during the latest period.
The company reported $2.4 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the latest quarter.
Tesla continues to generate significant cash from selling emissions credits to other automakers. During the latest quarter, the company said it sold $93 million in credits, which allow other automakers to offset deliveries of less fuel-efficient cars and light trucks.
Tesla also also realized $31 million in revenue from electric powertrain sales.
Model S targets
The company told shareholders that it now expects to deliver 33,000 units of the Model S in 2014, a 50 percent increase over 2013, due to the completion of assembly-line upgrades at its Fremont, Calif., factory this summer.
That is about 2,000 cars below Tesla’s original target, which the company attributed to snags in starting production of cars with a dual-motor all-wheel-drive system and “autopilot” features.
The automaker is targeting an annualized production rate of 100,000 vehicles by the end of 2015, after assembly of the Model X begins.
Musk told analysts that he expects orders and deliveries of the Model S to increase by 50 percent in both 2015 and 2016, as he continued to push back against a recent report in The Wall Street Journal that suggested demand for the Model S is cooling.
“There are a whole bunch of things we could do to stimulate demand if that were our problem,” Musk said, pointing to the company’s lack of paid advertising. “That is not our problem.”
The company’s challenge, he said, is manufacturing constraints. And in a letter to shareholders released Wednesday, Musk and CFO Deepak Ahuja wrote that it would be “legitimate” to criticize the delayed start of Model X deliveries.
Tesla is now testing early prototypes of the three-row crossover, which sports “falcon-wing” doors and a second-row that slides all the way forward to allow for easier access to the third row of seats.
Musk: 'Great respect'
“People don’t appreciate how hard it is to manufacture something. It is really hard. I have great respect for people who manufacture complex objects,” Musk said on the call with analysts, referring to delays in the Model X launch.
The Model X crossover, first unveiled as a concept in early 2012, uses the dual-motor all-wheel-drive system that Tesla started offering in the Model S this fall.
“We prefer to forgo revenue, rather than bring a product to market that does not delight customers,” Musk and Ahuja wrote. “Doing so negatively affects the short term, but positively affects the long term. There are many other companies that do not follow this philosophy that may be a more attractive home for investor capital. Tesla is not going to change.”
Tesla shares rose $11.18, or nearly 5 percent, to $242.15 in mid-day trading Thursday after closing on Wednesday at $230.97, down $7.96 a share, in Nasdaq trading in New York.