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Tesla lost US$500,000 every HOUR in final quarter of 2017

The company racked up losses of US$675mln in the final three months of 2017 as it invested heavily in the production of its Model 3 sedan, semi-truck and sports car
model 3 tesla
Tesla’s future as a mass-market car maker hinges on its US$35,000 Model 3 mid-size sedan

Befitting of its boss’ latest venture, electric car maker Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) reported an astronomical loss in its fourth-quarter earnings late on Wednesday.

The company – founded and headed up by billionaire Elon Musk – saw losses rise to a record US$675.4mln (£487mln) in the three months ended December 31, compared with ‘just’ a US$121.3mln loss a year earlier.

That means Tesla lost, on average, almost US$500,000 every hour of every day during the quarter.

Investing heavily in operations

The Silicon Valley-based firm has been spending heavily as it rolls out its next generation of electric cars, including its Model 3 Sedan, a seriously rapid sports car and its semi-truck.

Most analysts think Tesla’s future hinges on the mass-produced Model 3, but production bottlenecks mean that it has consistently missed delivery targets since the first car rolled out of the factory last July.

“Model 3 ramp has demonstrated the difficulty of accurately forecasting specific production rates at specific points in time,” the company said in an update to shareholders.

“What we can say with confidence is that we are taking many actions to systematically address bottlenecks and add capacity in places like the battery module line where we have experienced constraints, and these actions should result in our production rate significantly increasing during the rest of Q1 and through Q2.”

Outlook positive

Tesla said it would probably build about 2,500 Model 3s a week by the end of the March and that it plans to reach its goal of 5,000 a week by the end of the second quarter.

It did add a caveat by saying that “our prior experience on the Model 3 ramp has demonstrated the difficulty of accurately forecasting specific production rates at specific points in time”.

But Tesla, which is yet to make a profit, was also keen to highlight the positives. Sales in the quarter jumped to US$3.29bn from US$2.28bn in the year-ago period, while it also hinted that it was heading towards operating profitability.

“At some point in 2018, we expect to begin generating positive quarterly operating income on a sustained basis.”

Full-year revenues jumped 55% year-on-year to US$11.8bn and Tesla said it expects 2018 sales to “significantly exceed” those achieved in 2017.

It also has plenty of money in the bank – US$3.4bn to be precise – which will allow the company to continue to invest heavily in its operations for a little while yet.

Tesla shares were down 0.9% to US$342 shortly after the opening bell in New York.

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