Losses Widen at Tesla, but Company Says Production Is on Track


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Workers outside a new Tesla showroom in Shanghai. The company said it expected to sell 55,000 of its electric vehicles this year.

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Reuters

Tesla Motors reported a larger first-quarter loss on Wednesday, but it was still smaller than analysts forecast and the company appeared to be on track for important production milestones.

Tesla, a maker of high-end electric cars based in Palo Alto, Calif., said its net losses tripled in the first quarter compared with the previous year, to $154 million. On an adjusted basis, the company lost $45 million, or 36 cents a share, less than the nearly 50 cents analysts had expected.

The company also said it expected to hit its target of selling a record 55,000 vehicles this year. Tesla said it delivered just over 10,000 cars during the first quarter and expected to deliver between 10,000 and 11,000 in the second.

The anticipated, and twice-delayed, Model X sport utility vehicle will play a vital role in reaching that sales goal. The automaker’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said on Wednesday that deliveries of the electric S.U.V. would start toward the end of the third quarter.

“It would be easy for us to do some initial deliveries in August,” Mr. Musk said on a conference call. “But we want to iron everything out, and then deliver at high volume.”

Tesla will quickly ramp up Model X production to deliver about 1,000 vehicles a week by late 2015, he said.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said a lot was riding on Tesla’s new S.U.V., and that the company needed to ensure an on-time, trouble-free release.

“Any further Model X delays will reflect poorly on Tesla, though getting it to market is only half the battle,” Mr. Brauer said. “Interest will be huge initially, reflecting the current market’s hunger for all things S.U.V., but if something derails the Model X’s rollout and keeps Tesla from taking full advantage of the hype and pent-up demand, it will be a missed opportunity.”

Mr. Musk said that Tesla’s first foray into the mass market, the smaller, more affordable Model 3, would be ready to show publicly next spring, possibly as early as March. Production will begin in late 2017. It is intended to compete with the more mainstream, long-range electric cars promised by General Motors, Nissan and others.

Tesla executives also fielded a host of questions on Wednesday about the company’s new battery product, intended for home and business energy storage.

The battery packs were unveiled in California in an event last week and are intended to help consumers and businesses manage their energy use, for example, with solar panels to store electricity for nighttime use.

Mr. Musk called the initial response “crazy off-the-hook” and said reservations had flowed in by the thousands since the announcement. “We’re basically sold out through the middle of next year,” he said.

Tesla posted its results after the markets closed Wednesday. Its shares fell 1 percent during business hours, but later rose in after-hours trading.



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