• Tesla reports its second-quarter earnings after the bell on Wednesday.
• The automaker is expected to post a loss of about $US2 per share.
•Tesla’s Model 3 isn’t expected to boost the company’s bottom line for some time.
•The company could reveal more details about its upcoming semi-truck, the Model Y, Autopilot updates, and the Gigafactory.
Tesla will report second-quarter earnings after the markets close on Wednesday. Analysts expected another $US2.5 billion in revenue and a loss in the ballpark of $US2 per share.
Tesla has lost money nearly every quarter since its 2010 IPO, and even though its more affordable Model 3 is starting to roll off the assembly line, that trend won’t reverse until many, many Model 3s are delivered to customers.
Tesla has a meaningful medium-term advantage with the Model 3: for the 500,000 pre-orders that have thus far been logged (according to the company, and it’s not a precise number), the early deliveries will all be premium-spec, longer range versions of the car, selling for far more than the base $US35,000 vehicle.
Plenty of customers are going to happily purchase this version of the Model 3, so the car will initially have a shot at being more profitable than it would be if Tesla had gone directly to the more bare-bones trim level. That’s not to say that it will be profitable. Even with $US100,000 Model S’s and Models X’s, Tesla has rarely converted a claimed gross margin in the 20% range to a bottom line quarterly result in the black.
Only time will tell if Tesla can sell the Model 3 for more than it costs the company to build it. Smaller vehicles, and especially smaller sedans are extremely difficult to make a lot of money off of. At least Tesla’s first batch of Model 3s will be priced more like BMW 3-Series cars than the money-bleeding, relatively cheap, shorter-range EVs that are currently in the markets.
Investors might want to know what’s going on with battery storage and solar roofs — Tesla’s other lines of business — but because the company remains overwhelmingly a carmaker, and one that just handed over the first examples of its most anticipated car, the important stuff will all be bound up with the vehicle business.
Apart from the Model 3’s arrival, not much has changed since Q1. Tesla is going to come in light on deliveries through the third quarter, with the prospect of a Model 3 surge providing some possible momentum at year’s end, allowing for catch-up. The company’s balance sheet looks capable of getting it through the rest of 2017, but Tesla will be down to about $US1 billion in the bank by December and will be thinking before then about undertaking another capital raise while the stock is still trading above $US250 per share (it’s above $US300 currently).
The bottom line is that we aren’t going to learn much from the Q2 results. Some colour may arrive on future products, such as the semi-truck that’s supposed to be revealed in September and the Model Y crossover SUV, for which CEO Elon Musk has said there will be an all-new engineering platform.
An update on battery production at the Gigafactory, Autopilot updates, and the evolution of plans to manufacture cars in China (rather than exporting from the US) might also arrive.
Otherwise, the story hasn’t changed since Q1.
Tesla was trading down about 2% on Tuesday morning, to $US318.
Earlier this year, shares had rallied close to $US400, giving Tesla a market cap that exceeded Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, and General Motors.
Get the latest Tesla stock price here.
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