By Sonam Rai and Munsif Vengattil
Tesla Inc sought to squash any speculation it might need to raise more capital this year on Tuesday, driving the company’s battered shares higher as it announced it built 2,020 of its cheaper Model 3 sedans in the last seven days
Tesla shares jumped as much as 6.9 percent in morning trade, recouping a third of its losses from a week dominated by bad news about its credit rating and a crash involving a car using its semi-autonomous driving technology.
But with the company again missing its own 2,500 target for weekly production at the end of the first quarter, doubts remained among analysts and fund managers about Tesla’s ability to keep production growing to a promised 5,000 Model 3s per week in three months time.
Musk’s $50-billion dollar company, involved in a raft of projects ranging from trucks to a Roadster sports car and a factory in China, said it would also churn out 2,000 of the Model 3 cars next week and promised output would climb rapidly through the second quarter.
The Model 3 is the most affordable of Tesla’s cars to date and is the only one capable of transforming the niche automaker into a mass producer amid a sea of rivals entering the nascent electric vehicle market.
“(Tesla is) laying the groundwork for Q3 to have the long-sought ideal combination of high volume, good gross margin and strong positive operating cash flow,” the company said in the filing.
“As a result, Tesla does not require an equity or debt raise this year, apart from standard credit lines.”
Jefferies analysts had estimated that Tesla needed $2.5 billion to $3 billion of fresh equity to fund the Model 3 ramp-up and several other Wall Street brokerages have predicted the company would need more funds this year to fund its wide range of technology initiatives.
Some analysts said there were signs that the company might have prioritized the cheaper car, seen as crucial to its profitability, over its Model X SUV and more-established and expensive Model S sedan.
Last week, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson warned investors to be wary of a brief “burst rate” of Model 3 production that was not sustainable.
“Tesla may have stockpiled batteries amid Fremont downtime, allowing production to be higher in the final week of 1Q,” Johnson wrote. “Any such ‘beat’ is unlikely to be sustainable, and questions remain on Tesla’s ability to sustainably reach 2,500/week, let alone 5k/week.”
First-quarter deliveries totaled 29,980 vehicles, out of which 11,730 were Model S and 10,070 were Model X. Both were lower from the previous quarter and the first quarter a year ago.
“Maybe Elon Musk switched staff from Model S and X to Model 3 to get better production numbers for Model 3,” said analyst Frank Schwope from NORD/LB.
While Tesla had promised to reach 2,500 cars per week in the first quarter which ended March 31, the Model 3 weekly numbers it gave were for the seven days to April 2. Tesla declined to give production figures for the week to March 31.
Tesla shares peaked at $389 last September and have been declining steadily since, but analysts continue to give the company the benefit of the doubt as a big bet on the future of high-tech electric and self-driving vehicles.
Meanwhile, investors raised their bets against Tesla shares by 10 percent since mid-March, according to data provided by S3 Partners LLC on Tuesday, betting the market has misjudged the electric car maker’s prospects.
Musk himself has taken direct control of Model 3 production and the company says it already has about 500,000 advance reservations from customers for the car
The production numbers, while short of Tesla’s own target, are far above the 793 Model 3s built in the final week of last year.
“Progress is the first word that comes to mind after reading the Q1 delivery report,” Nomura analyst Romit Shah said.
“We believe that the backlog for Models S and X remains solid but that this is an area to monitor given the sequential declines.”
(Reporting by Munsif Vengattil, Sonam Rai and Alexandria Sage; Editing by Patrick Graham and Bernard Orr)