Finally, we know the number. Tesla Motors announced today that it sold 5,150 Model S electric vehicles in North America last quarter. Divide by three and you see that the California company sold around 1,700 cars a month, which puts it right up there with the current plug-in vehicle champions, the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt. That's despite the fact that the cheapest Model S, which starts at $69,900 but often sells for a lot more with better options, costs at least twice as much as the sales leaders. Tesla said it was making "almost 500 vehicles per week" in the second quarter of this year.
The sales contributed to an overall increase in net income (non-GAAP) of 70 percent compared to the first quarter, up to $26 million. Tesla said it achieved a gross margin of 22 percent (non-GAAP), "despite significant reduction in ZEV credits" (which was no surprise) and should hit 25 percent by the fourth quarter of 2013. That number is simply a company's sales revenue with the cost of goods sold taken out, divided by total sales revenue. Put it all together and you get the following statement: "Our financial position and balance sheet have never been stronger." Still, there was no talk in today's conference call of an overall profitable quarter, as there was three months ago.
Tesla says its "financial position and balance sheet have never been stronger."
With all of the good financial news, Tesla and CEO Elon Musk said the primary focus now is on "expanding production to meet worldwide demand." Tesla started delivering the Model S to Europe this week (the first lucky countries were Norway, Switzerland and the Netherlands) and if demand there matches North America, which Musk said is likely, then the company predicts "annualized sales for Model S could exceed 40,000 units per year by late 2014."
Musk said the upcoming new-market Model S versions (right-hand-drive for Japan and the Chinese model) are taking up most of Tesla's resources at the current moment. In China, for example, the company is trying to improve the comfort level of the rear seat, because it is common for people in The People's Republic to be driven around. The Model S was designed to be the perfect driver's car, Musk said, but in China it will have an "executive back seat" instead of the "family back seat" the car has now. Things like this mean that work on the Model X won't really start to ramp up until the end of this year. Deliveries of that car should start at the end of 2014.
In China, the Model S will have an "executive back seat" instead of the current "family back seat."
Looking further down the road, Musk said that the next-gen Tesla vehicle, the long-rumored $35,000 (without any subsidies) EV, should be a compelling option with a 200-mile range. That vehicle is still quite far away – he wondered aloud how his company might need more battery cells than the laptop industry does if it's making a half-million cars a year – but at least his automotive competition now has targets to shoot for if they want to beat Tesla in the longer-range EV game.