Tesla delivers record 7,785 sedans in 3Q, but loss widens on R&D and expansion costs

DETROIT – Electric car maker Tesla Motors beat Wall Street’s expectations and set a record for deliveries of its Model S sedan in the third quarter, delighting investors even as its losses doubled from a year ago.

Tesla said Wednesday it delivered 7,785 cars during the July-September period. That was slightly below its guidance of 7,800 but up 41.5 per cent from the same quarter a year ago.

The company’s net loss widened to $74.7 million for the quarter, or 60 cents per share, which was almost double its loss from a year ago. The company blamed increased research and development costs for both the Model X SUV, which is due to go on sale next year, as well as its new all-wheel-drive system.

Tesla also cited the expense of adding stores in Asia and building more charging stations. The company now has 124 Supercharger stations in the U.S., 82 in Europe and 23 in China. That’s up from 81 worldwide at the beginning of this year. It recently introduced the Model S in Hong Kong and Japan and plans to introduce it in Australia by the end of this year.

Accounting for leasing, stock-based compensation and other factors, Palo Alto, California-based Tesla beat analysts’ expectations with earnings of 2 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected a loss of a penny. On that basis, Tesla also beat analysts’ forecast with revenue of $932 million, up 55 per cent from a year ago. Analysts were expecting revenue of $892.1 million.

Tesla shares rose more than 7 per cent in after-hours trading to $247.48. They have traded in a 52-week range of $116.10 to $291.42.

Tesla managed record quarterly deliveries even with the temporary shutdown of its Fremont, California, factory in July to install more production capacity. The company said the longer-than-expected shutdown cost it 2,000 vehicles, but the plant changes will allow production to increase 50 per cent both this year and next.

Because of the shutdown, and the increased complexity of its new all-wheel-drive models, Tesla said it expects to deliver 33,000 Model S sedans for the full year, down from its previous estimate of 35,000.

Tesla also confirmed that its next vehicle, the Model X crossover, will be delayed. In February, the company said it would go into production at the end of this year, but on Wednesday, Tesla said it won’t start deliveries of the Model X until the third quarter of 2015.

CEO Elon Musk said he wants to make sure to get the details right with the Model X, and produce enough prototypes to catch any problems before they go on sale.

“I do think the X is going to be something quite special, but it’s hard to get there. It’s hard to engineer and it’s hard to produce,” Musk told analysts on a conference call late Wednesday.

Tesla Motors Inc. said it has poured the foundation of its new $5 billion battery factory in Nevada after settling on the location in September. Musk said the factory is on target to start making battery cells in 2016, which will help supply the Model S and Model X as well as the company’s lower-priced Model 3, which is expected to go on sale in 2017.