Tesla’s quarterly earnings call, held Wednesday, gave some insight into the financial health of the company. Like previous quarters, the earnings letter came out in advance of the call. The call itself provided the familiar format of select Tesla executives reporting, followed by a question and answer session with analysts.
Elon Musk, the company’s CEO started off the call with some cheerleading. In particular, he claimed that of complex manufacturing products such as cars, Tesla may have the largest company growth in history. That point was driven home later in the call when Tesla talked about the trend of producing an amount of cars each year that tops their combined production from all years since the company’s start; 2019 will again have record high production and delivery. As is stated in the earnings letter, the Model 3 sedan out sold all of its gas-powered equivalents combined in the US. The Model 3 bragging rights didn’t end there. Tesla reminded us of a benchmark they touted back in October; the Model 3 has the lowest probability of injury for any vehicle NHTSA has ever tested.
The Model 3 wasn’t the only car with accolades worth mentioning. MotorTrend named the Tesla Model S their “Ultimate Car of the Year.” In other words, Model S is the best car ever tested in their 70 year history. Worth mentioning, Tesla does not advertise in the magazine. In fact, Elon Musk complimented their journalistic integrity for it.
Speaking on future plans, we learned that Tesla hopes to finalize a location for a European gigafactory by the end of this year. Their Shanghai, China factory is on track to launch by that time. These facilities will be important to both fulfill demand and to achieve much needed cost savings for their respective local markets. In the next 12-18 months, the Model Y is expected to enter production. It should be easier to ramp than the Model 3, being that it has about 75% of parts in common with the sedan. Tesla expects manufacturing costs to be roughly the same for each.
With an expected 360,000-400,000 new Teslas on the road in 2019, the company knows that increased service is important. They added 100 mobile service vehicles to their fleet and are carefully analyzing where both service centers and superchargers are needed relative to where the customer population lives. This growth was achieved with only careful demand-driving activities, as Tesla wants to ensure the do not intentionally create a situation where demand outpaces production capacity. Ideally, the two match. In Q2, nearly all orders were from non-reservation holders, which Tesla referred to as “organic growth.”
Financial reporting is a key point of the earnings call. Tesla reported cash and cash equivalents of $5 billion and a gross margin of approximately 19% despite the average sales price of their vehicles decreasing. This is a testament to continual measures to increase production efficiencies and reduce cost. The company expects to nearly break even this quarter and become profitable next quarter.
We learned of the departure of J.B. Straubel, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, who will step down into an advisory role. Having been with the company since the beginning, Elon Musk provided great praise that the company would not exist without Straubel.
Full self-driving continues to be a priority, as does pushing every day to make the cars more affordable. As mentioned earlier, service is also an ongoing priority. The company’s CEO meets with the service team regularly and gets daily updates. Approaches to improve service include speeding up parts delivery, increasing mobile service, and improving reliability thereby reducing the need for service.
We also got a bit of humor from the Q2 call. Elon Musk stated that they continue to go on with Model S and Model X because they want “SEXY,” the clever grouping of their vehicle model names. He clarified that it wasn’t the main reason, but a reason nonetheless.