Most of Tesla’s recent quarterly conference call was dedicated to Tesla Energy, and I think I highlighted the most important or interesting points here. However, let’s not forget that Tesla is disrupting the auto industry with some wonderful electric vehicles. The Model X is close to production, and development of the Model 3 is coming along. Below are some of the highlights on these vehicles from the call and the recent shareholder letter (ah yeah, that reminds me, I should note here that I’m long TSLA).
Tesla Model 3
CEO & Product Architect Elon Musk asked not to be held too closely to this since it’s a rough guess rather than a promise, but he said that they expected to show the Tesla Model 3 in March 2016 and start production in late 2017.
Tesla has “very early prototypes” of the car built, but I wouldn’t take that to mean drivable prototypes. No “Alpha Prototype” has been built according to a recent SEC filing, but there’s this interesting tidbit from Wait But Why, tip of the hat to Yuri_G (emphasis added by Yuri_G, and kept by me):
I had a chance to visit the Tesla design studio (no pictures allowed), where there were designers sketching car designs on computer screens and, on the other side of the room, full-size car models made of clay. An actual-size clay version of the upcoming Model 3 was surrounded by specialists sculpting it with tiny instruments and blades, shaving off fractions of a millimeter to examine the way light bounced off the curves. There was also a 3D printer that could quickly “print” out a shoe-sized 3D model of a sketched Tesla design so a designer could actually hold their design and look at it from different angles. Deliciously futuristic.
Tesla Model X
Tesla reportedly has “hundreds” of release candidates going through the final testing rounds. (If you’re not familiar with the term, quickly read up on what a “release candidate” is.) The shareholder letter noted, “We ramped the manufacturing and availability of All-Wheel Drive Model S 85D, introduced 70D, and are building release candidate prototypes of Model X.” As you can see above, someone this week took a shot of a lightly camouflaged Model X that I would presume looks pretty dern similar to what we’ll see when deliveries begin.
Furthermore, Model X reservation holders should be able to configure their cars on the Tesla website in July, with Elon noting that there wouldn’t be many surprises since it’s essentially the same process as with the Model S.
As stated previously, the big technical buggers to solve were the falcon-wing doors and the second-row seats, which Elon has previously stated were way cooler than any other second-row seats out there. Hmm, waiting eagerly to see and experience those.
Initial deliveries are still projected to occur in the later part of the third quarter, and volume production in the fourth quarter.
Here’s the kicker: “steady construction progress continues at the Gigafactory, and together with Panasonic, we now expect to start complete battery manufacturing, from cells to modules to battery packs, in 2016.”
Yep, ahead of schedule. Isn’t that a nice change of pace!
Nuts & Bolts
For those of you who care about the business nuts & bolts, the shareholder letter noted, among other things:
- “We also significantly improved manufacturing efficiency and reduced per unit vehicle costs while achieving a higher average weekly production rate during Q1.”
- “These efforts, combined with a favorable product mix, helped us reach our Q1 non-GAAP automotive gross margin target, despite the significant negative impact of a strong dollar.” Yeah, for those of you who don’t live abroad or follow such matters, the dollar got really strong in recent months… great for an American worker living in Poland, but not so great for Tesla’s bottom line since it produces cars in the US and sells many of them in other countries. Prices have been getting jacked up in Europe recently in order to try to get back to financial reality.
- “We were also able to accelerate yearover-year revenue growth in Q1, while improving operational efficiency as reflected in lower than expected growth of operating expenses. Overall, these achievements represent a strong start to a very big year at Tesla.”
- “We continue to see growing Model S demand. In Q1, both North American and European orders were much higher than Q1 last year, despite limited availability of 85D and before the announcement of 70D. While we still have work to do in China, we saw encouraging signs of a return to growth in orders there as well.”
- “Recently, order rates have accelerated even further with greater availability of 85D and the launch of 70D. This is especially encouraging as potential customers in many markets have yet to experience these products first hand. 70D has only been shown in North America, and our all-wheel drive cars will not be available in right hand drive markets until Q3. We remain confident in our ability to deliver approximately 55,000 Model S and Model X vehicles combined in 2015, as increased availability of all our Model S variants continue to drive demand. To sustainably scale for increased deliveries, our inventory of in-transit customer-configured cars must increase, and in Q1 we added 1,100 such vehicles to the pipeline.”
Oh, screw it, I can hardly find any sentences worth skipping, so just go read the shareholder letter, starting from the paragraph on the left of the blue Model S.