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Tesla nears moment of truth in dash to make 5,000 cars per week

Tesla is expected to report its production figures for the last three months before the July 4 holiday

Gulf News

New York: It’s been another rough quarter for the roll-out of Tesla Inc’s Model 3. The factory was shut down at least twice for extensive upgrades, a new production line was hastily erected in a tent in the parking lot, and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk moved from sleeping on the couch to sleeping under the desk. He was even seen personally torquing bolts on an assembly line, alongside a summer intern.

Now the mad scramble to meet a self-imposed production deadline — a rate of 5,000 cars per week by the end of June — is coming to an end. The quarter concluded Saturday, and Tesla is expected to report its production figures for the last three months before the July 4 holiday. Tesla has repeatedly fallen short of its own manufacturing targets. Now investors will find out exactly how many cars Tesla made, sold and stockpiled — and what sort of weekly rate they were finally able to achieve.

Here’s our rundown of what to expect.

Back in February, Bloomberg introduced an experimental tool to track the Model 3 roll-out. The tracker uses vehicle identification numbers (VINs) to estimate production in real time. The model projects that Tesla finished the quarter making 27,957 Model 3s — or 4,533 in the last week, shy of Musk’s goal. Since production of the Model 3 began in July 2017, the Bloomberg tracker estimates that 40,409 of the sedans have been made.

Musk himself has suggested that this estimate is too low. An analyst report by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which projected quarterly production that’s just 43 cars more than the Bloomberg estimate, prompted the CEO to send an email to his employees. “They are in for a rude awakening,” Musk wrote.

The Bloomberg model is, by design, slow to reflect sudden shifts in production and could underestimate Tesla’s last-minute manufacturing push that spilt into a gigantic tent outside the factory in Fremont, California. Back in the first quarter, the Bloomberg Model 3 Tracker underestimated the actual production total by less than 5 per cent”-coming closer than the Wall Street consensus. The tool doesn’t estimate total deliveries, which can vary based on the number of cars in transit at the end of the quarter.

Wall Street doesn’t think tesla made it

Wall Street has also been placing its bets on Tesla’s quarterly figures. The average of eight analysts surveyed by Bloomberg projects second-quarter Model 3 deliveries of 26,121 cars. Three analysts also gave estimates for production, which averaged 30,167.

The number most people are watching is Tesla’s weekly production rate, a squishy figure that Musk has set up as his quarterly benchmark. Tesla initially targeted a rate of 5,000 per week by the end of 2017, but the company has since moved that target back twice. Only one firm stuck their neck out with an estimate of weekly production: Evercore ISI predicts that Tesla will hit 4,600 during the final week.

Total shipments for Models S and X are expected to be around 22,622 units, according to an average of six estimates.

One thing that makes this quarter particularly hard to assess is the approaching expiration of the US tax credit for electric vehicles. Tesla may be suppressing US sales as the quarter ends as way to extend its federal electric-vehicle tax credit of $7,500 per car. The subsidy begins to phase out one full quarter after the quarter in which Tesla sells its 200,000th electric car in the US. By hitting that milestone after July 1, rather than a day earlier, Tesla would gain an additional three months of tax credits that could be worth more than $400 million to Tesla customers, according to Bloomberg estimates.

In June, Tesla filled Model 3 orders to reservation holders in Canada ahead of deliveries to some US customers. There are other actions Tesla may be taking, including accelerating its overseas deliveries for the Model S and Model X and stockpiling cars at holding facilities, all of which could push quarterly revenue into the third quarter, which is when Musk vows that Tesla will finally become profitable.

Tesla’s stock has been on a tear in the second quarter, boosted by apparent progress on Model 3 production. The stock has climbed 31 per cent to close at $349.93 on Thursday. Tesla’s market value reached $59.4 billion”-more than long-established rivals General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co. On Friday though, Tesla fell $6.98”-or 2 per cent”-to $342.95.

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