Tesla shares tumble after delivering a record 97,000 vehicles in third quarter that fell short of forecasts

Electric car maker Tesla's third-quarter vehicle deliveries fell short of investor expectations, despite hitting a new company record of 97,000 vehicles.

The company's stock tumbled by more than 5% in after-hours trading on the news Wednesday.

Analysts expected Tesla to deliver 99,000 vehicles during the third quarter, including 80,200 Model 3s, according to data compiled by FactSet. During the second quarter, Tesla delivered a record 95,200 electric vehicles, blowing away analysts' estimates of 91,000.

Tesla's deliveries are a closely watched number in the industry, providing the closest proximation to sales. It tracks vehicles that have been sold and physically delivered to customers. They are a barometer for how the company is performing ahead of announcing quarterly earnings.

Tesla said it delivered 79,600 Model 3 cars and 17,400 Model S and X vehicles in the third quarter. That compares to 55,840 Model 3s and 27,660 Model S and X vehicles in the third quarter of 2018.

Tesla produced 96,155 vehicles in the third quarter, including nearly 79,900 Model 3s.

Tesla has told shareholders to expect deliveries this year to fall between 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles, a 45% to 65% increase from 2018. That target remains possible if the company can deliver roughly 105,000 vehicles in the fourth-quarter. Analysts, according to FactSet, currently expect the company to deliver 106,000 units.

Tesla, in a release announcing the sales, said it achieved "record net orders in Q3 and are entering Q4 with an increase in our order backlog." It also said it continues to "focus on increasing production to meet that demand."

The electric car maker has long struggled to hit CEO Elon Musk's aggressive production and sales targets.

Musk set expectations high again this quarter, telling employees in a recent email that the company "has a shot" at delivering 100,000 cars, which would set a new record. Shares of Tesla jumped more than 5% after electric vehicle news website Electrek reported the email last week.

This year, Tesla began sales and deliveries to customers in further reaches than ever before. It now sells electric vehicles in China, Australia, Taiwan, the UK, and several markets through Eastern Europe, including in Poland and Hungary.

Tesla ships its cars from the U.S. to major markets, most notably China, where authorities exempted its electric cars from a 10% purchase tax at the end of August. Equity research firm JL Warren Capital expected orders in China to spike after that, in September, but cautioned shareholders that it would take time for those orders to translate into completed deliveries.

The company compiles its own Wall Street estimates, which officials say are a more robust measure because it tracks forecasts by 21 analysts. Those forecasts predicted Tesla's deliveries would average 94,422 during the third quarter with a median estimate of 98,250 deliveries, according to a company spokesman. FactSet's deliveries' forecast was based this quarter on average estimates from 12 different analysts. 

— CNBC's Lora Kolodny contributed to this report.

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