Deliveries of new Teslas TSLA jumped 44% in the third quarter to the highest in company history, aided by its new plant in China, as production at Elon Musk’s electric-car maker rebounds from a first-half slowdown triggered by Covid-19. But output has to pick up even more steam to hit Musk’s loose target of 500,000 deliveries this year.
The company delivered 139,300 cars and crossovers to customers globally in the period that ended September 30, up from 97,000 a year ago, according to a release. That topped the previous quarterly record of 112,000 vehicle deliveries set in the fourth quarter of 2019. Production at Tesla’s plants in Fremont, California, and Shanghai totaled 145,036, also the highest in company history.
Tesla fell 7.4% to $415.09 in Nasdaq NDAQ trading on Friday.
The Palo Alto, California-based company provided no details about sales in individual markets, particularly the U.S. and China. It’s terse filing noted only that, “in terms of days of sales, new vehicle inventory declined further in Q3 as we continue to improve our delivery efficiency.”
The quarterly delivery figure—which included 124,100 units of the Model 3 and Model Y, and 15,200 units of Model S and Model X—fell short of some forecasts. RBC Capital Markets equity analyst Joseph Spack estimated in a research note this week that quarterly deliveries would hit 144,600 units–about 5,000 units higher than the actual figure. Consensus expectations were closer to 137,000 deliveries.
At Tesla’s Battery Day event last month, Musk said, “in 2019, we had 50% growth. And I think we’ll do really pretty well in 2020, probably somewhere between 30% to 40% growth, despite a lot of very difficult circumstances.”
The top end of that range would be just over 514,000 vehicles. Deliveries total 318,446 in the year’s first three quarters, so the company has to ship 181,554 units in 2020’s last three months to reach half a million.
“At this point, it seems decently unlikely that the company will hit its annual target of a half-million vehicles delivered this year,” Nick Shields, senior equity analyst at investment research firm Third Bridge, said in a note. Although Musk “repeatedly emphasized that they will exceed a half-million vehicles delivered this year, the company in some literature they’ve distributed and on their website has stopped saying they will ‘drastically exceed 500,000 for the year.’”
The opening of Tesla’s China plant in January significantly boosted the company’s production capacity, indicating that quarterly delivery and production records are likely over the next several quarters. But the company didn’t break out specific figures for that facility and its weekly rate of production still remains unclear.
Tesla is to release third-quarter financial results within the next few weeks.