ELON MUSK: The Wall Street Journal Is Wrong About Tesla Sales

Electric car-maker Tesla has been one of the hottest growth stories in the stock market and American industry.

So, everyone was taken aback when the Wall Street Journal’s Mike Ramsey and John D. Stoll reported a breath-taking plunge in sales for one of Tesla models. From the WSJ:

The auto maker has long had a waiting list in the U.S. for its only car, which is currently back-ordered in its home market until December, according to a company sales representative. Tesla, however, is facing declining sales in the U.S., according to WardsAuto.com, an industry publication that tracks auto company data.

Through September, Tesla sold 10,335 Model S sedans in its home market, down 26% compared with the same period in 2013. The U.S. decline has come even as the company’s U.S. production increased 10% during the same period, according to WardsAuto.

Tesla doesn’t disclose sales volumes by region, but has said it expects half of its sales to be outside the U.S. by the end of 2014. With a goal of selling 35,000 cars this year, Tesla would have to sell about 17,500 models in the U.S. At its current sales pace, the auto maker will miss that target by a wide margin — and will have to double its sales pace to hit its goal.

There are obviously some confusing points here. They acknowledge that the vehicles are back-ordered, which would suggest Tesla is more likely on track to meet its goal of selling 35,000 units. Indeed, this was the message CEO Elon Musk advanced in the company’s Q2 earnings announcement, in which he also projected a run-rate of 100,000 units in 2015.

Musk fired back on Twitter, saying point blank that the Journal “is incorrect.”

Some folks have noticed an issue with Musk’s tweet. Specifically, Musk says September was up 65% year-over-year. Meanwhile, the Journal says down 26% “through September,” which would imply its measuring year-to-date sales.

Nevertheless, Musk is saying something is wrong.

In July, Tesla announced it would be shutting down production of its Fremont Model S factory to retool in preparation for its new Model X. It’s possible that any resulting supply disruption could mean delayed deliveries.

In other words, while sales have been technically strong, the cars sold might not actually be on the owners’ driveways.

We’ll likely get more clarity by November 5, which is when Tesla announces its Q3 financial results.

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