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Tesla posts big loss in a quarter when investors didn't see it coming

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But the stock is going way up anyway

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Building an electric car company from scratch isn't easy, it turns out.

Tesla Motors had a brutal fourth quarter of 2015, posting a GAAP loss of 86 cents per share — about $107 million in total — in a quarter when analysts had expected it to turn a small profit. For the year, Tesla lost nearly $889 million, $6.93 per share. It still has nearly $1.2 billion in cash on hand, but thats down from $1.9 billion a year prior. Money is burning.

The solution to Tesla's money woes is supposed to be the Model 3, the company's first mass-market car, which is supposed to deliver decent electric range for a far more reasonable price ($35,000 before tax incentives) than the S and X that it currently sells. In theory, if everything goes according to plan — Tesla can spin up the Model 3 in time, and the Nevada-based Gigafactory can make enough battery cells for cheap enough to supply it — the company's fortunes could really start to turn around in 2017 and beyond once deliveries begin.

But despite the bad quarter, Tesla is upbeat about 2016: the Model X is starting to be delivered in volume, it seems — at least, as much volume as you can expect for a crossover that can sell for well over $100,000 — and it expects positive cash flow for full-year 2016, starting in March. ("...Our cash balance at the end of 2016 should increase from the year end 2015 level," Tesla says in its investor letter.) It also expect to deliver a record 80,000 to 90,000 units in 2016 with a mix of Model S and Model X vehicles, with 16,000 coming in the first quarter — up 60 percent year over year. The rosy outlook has managed to push Tesla shares significantly higher (over 13 percent, as of this writing) in after-hours trading, despite the earnings miss, and despite a malaise on the stock that has sent it tumbling in recent weeks.

The company has also delivered a substantial (and expected) increase in deliveries in the quarter, which are now up to 17,478 — a big jump from the 11,603 reported in the quarter prior. That's still a drop in the bucket compared to global volume players like GM, Toyota, and Volkswagen — but then again, Tesla doesn't yet have a volume car. Model 3, you can't come soon enough.