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Tesla sets another new delivery record, thanks to the Model 3

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The company has shipped more cars so far in 2019 than in all of 2018

Photo: Sean O’Kane/The Verge

Tesla delivered “approximately 97,000” cars around the world in the third quarter of 2019, slightly edging out the previous record of 95,356 the company set in the second quarter, according to a press release issued on Wednesday. That brings Tesla’s delivery total for the year up to around 255,000 vehicles, meaning the company has already shipped more cars in 2019 than it did all of last year.

But it also means Tesla needs to set another record in the fourth quarter (and then some) if it wants to reach the low end of the estimate it offered at the beginning of the year, which was that the Silicon Valley automaker would deliver between 360,000 and 400,000 cars in 2019. Tesla is expected to start production at its third Gigafactory in China by the end of the year, which could help the company meet that goal.

The third quarter performance also fell just shy of Wall Street’s expectations, and missed CEO Elon Musk’s own recently-stated goal of 100,000 deliveries for the quarter, though Tesla says its final numbers could vary by a half percent “or more.”

In addition to the delivery figures, Tesla says 96,155 vehicles came off its production lines last quarter, more than in any other quarter of the company’s history. Some 79,600 of the 97,000 cars delivered were Model 3s. Tesla also says it logged “record net orders” in the third quarter of this year, and it has an “increase in [the company’s] order backlog” heading into the final quarter of the year.

Setting back-to-back delivery records is significant, if not unexpected, since Tesla got off to such a relatively slow start in 2019. But that progress should help mute concerns that the company was both exhausting demand for the Model 3 in North America (after selling so many in 2018) as well as struggling to establish a presence for the car in new markets like Europe and China.

Tesla won’t release its finances for the third quarter for another few weeks, so it’s unclear whether the record deliveries helped turn a profit, or if the company’s still losing money. Tesla lost $408 million in the second quarter, despite delivering nearly 100,000 vehicles, and suffered a massive $702 million loss in the first quarter on 63,000 deliveries.

Musk told employees in a leaked all-staff email sent last week (before the end of the third quarter) that the company had “a shot” at breaking the 100,000 vehicle delivery mark, which he called “an incredibly exciting milestone.” In the email, Musk asked Tesla employees to rally resources to try and hit the mark — the kind of call to arms the CEO is now famous for making before the end of each quarter.