Has Tesla graduated to the automotive big leagues?
Ten thousand down, 45,000 to go.
Tesla Motors’ bid to sell two-thirds more all-electric vehicles than last year got off to a positive—and more transparent—start in the first quarter. And while the delivery numbers will likely get the bulk of the attention, the timing of the announcement deserves a some of the spotlight too.
In an effort to control its message, Tesla (TSLA) has always waited until its quarterly earnings report to release delivery figures—a strategy that has largely backfired. Without metrics to evaluate, wildly different sales projections are typically released in the lead up to Tesla’s quarterly reports, often causing CEO Elon Musk to take to Twitter to clarify or debunk the estimates. The upshot—even when those projections are incorrect—is a desperate-sounding, reactive company, and certainly not the picture of control and capability that its leader has tried to create.
The Palo Alto-based electric automaker said it will now publish the number of new cars deliveries within three days of quarter end because “inaccurate sources of information are sometimes used by others to project the number of vehicle deliveries.”
The company (and Musk) is starting to mature as an automaker, said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “If you’re in the automotive industry, especially if you’re in the spotlight, you have to be transparent. You’re better off controlling the message, even if it’s not that great, than being opaque. I think he’s finally realizing that.”
Tesla still doesn’t report its production numbers every month like the rest of the automotive industry, a move Brauer said would only add to its authority and validity as an automaker.
The luxury electric automaker said Friday it delivered 10,030 Model S vehicles in the first quarter, a 55 percent jump from the same quarter last year.
While Brauer said the company’s first quarter numbers are positive, he strikes a cautious tone moving forward.
“There’s no way they can hit the 55,000 figure this year unless they get the Model X out,” he said. “Everything is riding on it. If Elon can get it out, he’ll have the demand.”
Tesla plans to deliver about 55,000 Model S and the anticipated Model X SUV vehicles in 2015. If Tesla can meet that delivery goal, it would represent a 67% increase over 2014.
Tesla fell short of its car delivery goal for the fourth quarter of 2014, and as a result, for the year. The company delivered 9,834 Model S vehicles in the fourth quarter, falling short of the 11,200 it needed to deliver to meet its year-end—and recently revised—goal of 33,000.
At the time, Tesla blamed the shortfall on production delays of its Performance All-Wheel Drive Dual Motor (P85D) Model S, which pushed some deliveries to the first quarter of 2015. The company also said the lower-than-expected deliveries were caused by a combination of other factors including customers “being on vacation, severe winter weather and shipping problems (with actual ships).”
The company did manage to hit its production goals, making 11,627 vehicles in the fourth quarter.