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Tesla shipped a record 25,051 vehicles last quarter

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Model 3 production set to being in July

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Tesla’s quarterly earnings statement is out, and the company says it shipped a record number of cars in the first three months of 2017. The electric carmaker states it delivered 25,051 vehicles last quarter, putting it on track of its goal to sell 50,000 cars by the middle of 2017. The numbers are a good sign for a company that has frequently exhibited trouble meeting its own deadlines.

Production of Tesla’s first mass-market car, the Model 3, is set to begin this July, the company said. Over the last few months, Tesla has been road testing release candidate Model 3s to perfect the vehicle’s software. Tesla says it expects to begin production with 5,000 cars per week at some point in 2017, which it hopes to increase to 10,000 cars per week by some point in 2018.

Some analysts took exception with Tesla’s word choices. “A worrying sign in today's report comes from Tesla's vague language,” said Clement Thibault, Senior Analyst at Investing.com. “Tesla reports it will be ready to produce 10,000 vehicles 'at some point' during 2018. However, almost a year ago to the date, Musk announced the company would manufacture 500,000 vehicles in 2018. Quick math shows us that Tesla needs to start the year at 10,000 vehicles per week, rather than getting there 'at some point.’”

Nonetheless, Tesla’s losses were higher than expected. The company reported a loss of $1.33 per share, compared to Wall Street expectations of 81 cents per share. Revenue more than doubled over the same quarter last year. Tesla earned $2.7 billion in revenue, versus an expected $2.62 billion. Tesla generated $2.28 billion in revenue in the last quarter of 2016.

In its letter to investors, the company echoed CEO Elon Musk is seeking to tamp down on expectations that the Model 3 will be a better vehicle than the carmaker’s current luxury sedan, the Model S. “We have seen a belief among some that Model 3 is the newest and more advanced generation of Model S,” the letter says. “This is not correct. Model S will always have more range, more acceleration, more power, more passenger cargo room, more displays (two), and more customization choices, and Model S, X, and 3 will all have equivalent Autopilot functionality. We will continue to clearly communicate these distinctions to avoid any misperceptions.”

Nonetheless, experts cautioned against reading too much into this quarter’s earnings. “Tesla is on the verge of a major transition,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. “This makes the last three months of financial performance far less critical than the next 3-to-6 months. Today's earnings report will provide elements of Tesla's long-term progress, but the rest of 2017 will truly define the company's long-term viability.”

Thibault added, “Overall, the company is taking baby steps to arrive at the promised land, but [Elon] Musk has made quite a few promises along the way — to which he should be held accountable. Public perception of the company is better than its operational situation, and the high stock price does seem undeserved, from an investing point of view.”

Recently, Tesla’s market cap exceeded that of Ford and General Motors, making it the most valued carmaker in the US. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is expected to address the company’s earning statement in a call at 2:30PM PT.

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