Tesla still won't tell us how many cars it's selling every month

Elon musk tesla model x Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California February 9, 2012REUTERS/David McNewTesla CEO Elon Musk, with the prototype of the Model X SUV.

Tesla has often been blamed for being cryptic about how many cars it’s actually selling. Unlike the rest of the auto industry, Tesla doesn’t report sales each month.

But that’s going to change. Sort of. Tesla sent out the following Friday morning:

Going forward, Tesla will publish the number of new car deliveries within three days of quarter end. We have decided to take this approach, because inaccurate sources of information are sometimes used by others to project the number of vehicle deliveries.

There may be small changes to this delivery count (usually well under 1%), as Tesla only counts a delivery if it is transferred to the end customer and all paperwork is correct.

Also, this is only one measure of our financial performance and should not be relied on as an indicator of our quarterly financial results, which depend on a variety of factors, including the cost of sales, foreign exchange movements and mix of directly leased vehicles.

OK, so Tesla will tell us a bit sooner than usual about quarterly deliveries. It already reports sales when it reports quarterly earnings. But going forward, everyone will have a few more days to digest the data.

To a certain extent, it makes sense for Tesla to report quarterly rather than monthly. It’s still a pretty low-volume car maker, so its monthly numbers don’t look all that impressive. Deliveries can also drop precipitously if, for example, the company has to idle its production line or decides to give the workforce a week off.

As for the actual Q1 figure, Tesla sold 10,030 cars during the period — better than expected.

“This was a new company record for the most cars delivered in a quarter and represents a 55% increase over Q1 last year,” the company said in a statement.

Tesla has projected 2015 sales of 55,000, inclusive of the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV that’s scheduled to launch later this year. So the company has a bit of ramping up to do on the production front.

Tesla factory productionREUTERS/Stephen LamThe body of a Tesla Model S at the factory.

Last year, Tesla hit its production target of 33,000 (revised down from 35,000), but slipped on deliveries, some of which were pushed to early 2015.

It can sometimes to difficult to understand why everyone is so fixated on Tesla’s sales. This is a company that currently builds one car in one factory. Thus far, it’s been able to more or less build all the cars it says it can build. Owners and the automotive media love those cars, too. There have been some issues with demand in China and Europe, but Tesla appears to be managing its North American business just fine.

Ultimately, Tesla will probably join the rest of the industry and go monthly with its sales reporting. But by then it will be a much bigger carmaker — and the world may be monitoring its performance a lot less closely.

Tesla was trading up on Friday, at $US191. That’s still way down from the stock’s peak of $US291, reached last September.

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