SAN FRANCISCO -- As recently as July, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk said the EV maker did not have a problem with customer demand, simply a problem making and shipping all the Model Ys and Model 3s consumers were ready to buy.
That may no longer be true.
Analysts see early signs of caution for the world's most valuable car maker, including for its increasingly premium pricing, at a time when the global economy is slowing and expectations for global auto sales are being dialed back.
Tesla has navigated supply-chain challenges better than most of its rivals and analysts expect it to post strong growth through next year as it expands output, but there are also indications it is being forced to respond to a tougher market.
The most immediate concern: Tesla made over 22,000 more EVs than it delivered to customers in the third quarter, data released this week showed. That is the first time it has had to finance that many cars in inventory.
For most of the past three years, Tesla has been selling more EVs in a quarter than it can produce. The one notable exception was in early 2020 when COVID disrupted deliveries.
While Tesla's numbers remain low, building inventory has historically been a down-cycle indicator for automakers, forcing markdowns in past recessions of the kind Tesla has not yet faced.
Tesla blamed transport issues for a delivery total that fell short of Wall Street expectations.