A Model Y electric vehicle drives off the production line at Tesla's Gigafactory in Berlin, Germany. Image Credit: AFP

Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk on Wednesday said he expected the company would miss its vehicle delivery targets this year, but downplayed concerns about softening demand after the company's revenue missed Wall Street estimates.

The billionaire told analysts on a conference call there was excellent demand for the fourth quarter, addressing investor concern that buyers could be discouraged by the weak global economy and high prices for Tesla vehicles.

Production up 50%

But he said some logistics challenges would persist, with fourth-quarter deliveries tracking under 50% growth while production hit 50% growth.

"I wouldn't say we're recession proof, but it's certainly recession resilient," he said.

Shares fell 4.3% in after-market trading.

Tesla is expanding fast despite global economic jitters, and investors are closely watching for signs that the cooling economy would hurt demand.

The company's third-quarter automotive gross margin was 27.9%, missing analysts' estimates and down from 30.5% a year earlier.

Tesla's revenue for the third quarter was $21.45 billion, a record but short of analysts' estimates of $21.96 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Raw materials

The company said it had a negative foreign exchange impact of $250 million on its earnings as the US dollar strengthened against major currencies.

"Raw material cost inflation impacted our profitability along with ramp inefficiencies" from its new factories in Berlin and Texas, and the production of its new 4680 batteries, according to Tesla's statement.

Musk added that production of the 4680 battery was gaining rapid traction, although executive Andrew Baglino said "There are challenges still ahead that we have not yet surpassed? No doubt." Musk also said the company has the ability to do a stock buyback in the range of $5 billion to $10 billion, pending board review and approval.

Surpasses Apple market share

Early this month, Tesla said it delivered 35% more vehicles in the July-September period than in the previous quarter, but the record number was shy of vehicle production and analysts' estimates.

But the electric vehicle pioneer has seen its shares tumble about 50% from record highs last November as investors were spooked by a cooling global economy and Musk's bid to buy social media company Twitter.

Musk told the conference call he saw a path for Tesla to be worth more than two mammoth companies, Apple Inc and Saudi Aramco, combined. Tesla's market cap is now under $700 billion, while Apple is worth $2.3 trillion and oil producer Saudi Aramco is worth $2.1 trillion.

Analysts had expected Musk to voice optimism about Tesla in the conference call. Musk has been trying to raise cash to fund his $44 billion deal to take Twitter Inc private. Some experts say Musk may need to sell about $3 billion more in stock after the earnings announcement to help fund the deal.

Musk also said Tesla's Cybertruck pick-up truck was on track to enter production in the middle of next year and its heavy duty semi truck, which will begin deliveries later this year, could see 50,000 units in North America in 2024.