Tesla Model 3 at the July 2017 handover event

Tesla Model 3 at the July 2017 handover event

Bloomberg has joined the Tesla Model 3 production tracking game, but will its system prove accurate? Does it reinforce InsideEVs' sales estimate?

At InsideEVs, we don't report electric vehicle production, but rather sales/deliveries. However, when it comes to Tesla, and other automakers that either don't report sales or don't split ICE and EV figures, we have to have a handle on production to estimate sales. These numbers can vary widely, especially when it comes to a vehicle like the Tesla Model 3.

With that being said, there are few places on the web that actually estimate Tesla sales for the U.S., and if you dig around a bit, you'll learn that many of the estimates that are available can mostly be traced back to the same few sources.

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Tesla Model 3, LA Auto Show (Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs)

Tesla Model 3, LA Auto Show (Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs)

Thus far, with regards to Model 3 sales estimates (at least up until January's figure), there have been checks in place to prove accuracy. Since no Model 3s have been sold outside of the U.S., there was no wiggle room to cloud the estimate by having to factor in deliveries for Europe and Asia. Also, Tesla has publicized some numbers along the way. This was not the case for January, although we feel like we had a pretty good handle on the situation (more on that below).

The discrepancy between production and sales can be larger than some might think. While Tesla can crank out a Model S from production to delivery in some ~18 days, it may take the automaker four to five weeks to turn around a Model 3. So, most Model 3s built in December (aside from those that CEO Elon Musk said were "in transit"), as well as most built in January may not be in customer driveways until February.

According to Bloomberg's new estimator, as of the time of this writing, Tesla has built 7,438 Model 3 sedans. The publication also says that the automaker is likely producing 1,025 Model 3s per week at this point. These numbers will continue to be updated on a regular basis (see update below), as Bloomberg collects more data and streamlines its estimation process.

So, how are these numbers determined?

Bloomberg is using two methods to come up with its math. First, it's relying on VIN tracking. As we've said repeatedly, VINs don't tell the whole story, but keeping an eye on them can't hurt. It has become obvious that Tesla is not using sequential VINs, probably so that people can't track them. Bloomberg does explain that this method has its faults, so the publication is actually petitioning the NHTSA for data every time new Model 3 VINs are registered.

The Model 3 Tracker's second method searches the internet and social media for reported VINs and VIN sightings. Additionally, Bloomberg has added an area for self-reporting, where owners can submit their VINs. As time goes on, this method should help to establish additional checks and balances against the first method.

Inside the Tesla Model 3 LA Auto Show (Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs)

Inside the Tesla Model 3 LA Auto Show (Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs)

How accurate is Bloomberg's Tesla Model 3 Tracker?

Obviously, if we knew the precise answer to that question, we'd have an exact number of Tesla Model 3 production and deliveries, but no one has published such a number.

We do know that Tesla delivered 1,550 Model 3s in the fourth quarter of 2017, and a total of ~1,772 for the year as a whole. We estimated that the automaker delivered another 1,875 during the month of January (860 of which were in transit to customers in late December).

Tesla also revealed that of all vehicles "produced" in Q4, 2,425 were Model 3s (which is pretty close to the same math you get by adding the 1,550 delivered plus the 860 in transit). Some 15 vehicles were likely finished but not yet scheduled for delivery by the end of December. Finally, Tesla added:

"In the last seven working days of the quarter, we made 793 Model 3's, and in the last few days, we hit a production rate on each of our manufacturing lines that extrapolates to over 1,000 Model 3's per week."

So, Bloomberg's 1,025 "produced" per week at this point makes pretty good sense. It's important to remember, however, that Bloomberg is saying Tesla just hit that number. Even in the second week of February, its tracker is showing production levels still shy of 1,000. It has been nearly seven weeks since the last confirmed total Model 3 production number of 2,686. This means, according to Bloomberg, Tesla has produced 4,753 cars in just shy of seven weeks.

If you look at the tracker's interactive chart, it shows 391 Model 3s produced for the first week of January, 422 for week two, 622 for week three, 885 for week four, and 991 for week five. Essentially, though Tesla reported churning out 793 Model 3s in seven days in December, as well as proving the ability to hit a production rate (over the course of a few days) that would extrapolate to 1,000 Model 3s a week.

It looks like the automaker spent the month of January meticulously ramping up to a point in which it could consistently achieve that target number. Bursting out enough cars in a few days to multiply to a potential for 1,000 per week is surely much different from "actually" building 1,000 cars per week over a period of time. Hopefully, now Tesla is achieving that number with regular success and will continue to ramp up incrementally.

How does this all match up with our Tesla Model 3 sales estimate for January?

If Tesla had 860 Model 3s in transit in December and was able to deliver all vehicles produced during the first two weeks of January (391 + 422) plus those 15 other odd vehicles from December, Bloomberg's tracker estimate would extrapolate to 1,688 Tesla Model 3 deliveries for January. This is not far off from our estimate of 1,875 and surprisingly suggests that our estimate may be a bit high!

What we don't know for sure is how many of the "manufactured" Model 3s the automaker was actually able to deliver prior to January 31. Some argue that a handful of cars produced in the third week of January may have made their way into owners' driveways. (Even if we are gracious to say that half of the 622 week-three cars were delivered in January, the sales number only grows to 1,999). The chances of that are very slim, as turnaround time can be as long as four to five weeks for the entire process, and this only gives Tesla some 10-15 business days to get the cars delivered. In fact, there's a possibility that some cars produced in week two of January weren't even delivered until February.

UPDATE: As of the time of publication, Bloomberg has secured more data and its estimator shows 7,535 Model 3s built (up 97 units from last evening's tracker data), however, production is now back down at 965 per week.

What do you think?

Source: Bloomberg, Tesla