Tesla reports $312 million profit in Q3 as Model 3 deliveries surge
Tesla reported net income of $312 million for the third quarter, its first GAAP profit in two years, as revenue doubled amid rising production of the Model 3 sedan.
The company posted a net loss of $619.4 million in the same quarter last year and a net loss of $717.5 million in the second quarter this year, the company said Wednesday.
Record deliveries of the company's Model 3 sedan at gross margins of nearly 20 percent drove free cash flow to $881 million, and the company ended the quarter with $3 billion in cash on hand. Automotive revenue nearly doubled to $6.1 billion from $3.36 billion in the second quarter; it was $2.4 billion in the same quarter last year. Tesla also bolstered its positive results with $52 million from sales of regulatory tax credits and $23 million in other income.
On the balance sheet, accounts payable increased by more than $566 million from the second quarter, to $3.6 billion, after Tesla asked suppliers for retroactive cost reductions. Tesla said its accounts receivable increased by a “similar magnitude” to $1.15 billion.
CEO Elon Musk said that supplier terms are currently under 60 days on average, and that Tesla was trying to bring customer delivery times under 10 days in hopes of making the company more capital efficient.
Musk, who has often set goals and deadlines that Tesla has failed to reach, surprised investors by delivering on his pledge to make Tesla profitable for only the third quarter in its 15-year existence, providing a positive end to a difficult quarter for the CEO whose leadership was openly questioned only weeks ago.
"We can actually be cash flow positive and profitable in all quarters going forward," Musk said, qualifying that he excluded those in which a big debt payment comes due, such as the first quarter of 2019.
Musk reiterated that Tesla currently does not plan to raise equity or debt.
Tesla produced more than 5,300 Model 3s in the last week of the quarter. According to the company, the number of hours to produce each Model 3 fell by more than 30 percent, as production levels stabilized after a difficult ramp-up that began in June 2017. A total of 56,065 Model 3s were delivered to customers in the quarter, despite logistical challenges that Musk blamed on a shortage of car carriers. The company delivered 27,710 Model S and Model X vehicles during the quarter. In spite of these challenges, Tesla’s operating expenditures declined by $133 million as Tesla owners around the country volunteered to help the company deliver vehicles during the last two weekends of the quarter.
Fewer than 20 percent of the 455,000 Model 3 orders the company reported in August 2017 have been canceled, Tesla said. The company expects to convert most of its remaining reservations to orders as it rolls out lower-cost versions of the Model 3, introduces new financing options and starts deliveries to markets outside North America.
Tesla expects the average selling price of the Model 3 to decline as this happens, but reaffirmed its guidance for profitability and positive cash flow in the fourth quarter. Musk also said that global deliveries would make up for any reduction in U.S. market demand resulting from the drawdown of federal tax credits, supporting Model 3 production at a level of 5,000 units per week.
Musk estimated global demand for the Model 3 to be between 500,000 and one million units per year and said production at a new plant outside Shanghai would start in 2019. The new Chinese plant would be constructed in a “capital efficient manner” similar to the GA4 Model 3 general assembly line recently built in a tent-like Sprung Structure building at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif. factory.
Tesla’s shares rose 9.1 percent to $314.86 on Thursday after falling 2 percent on Wednesday.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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