Tesla Turns Profit For First Time In History For Q1, Beats Street Estimates Easily

MAY 8 2013 BY JAY COLE 18

Tesla Motors:  Making Cars, Making Money

Tesla Motors: Making Cars, Making Money

As predicted by CEO Elon Musk, Tesla Motors has turned a profit in the first quarter of 2013.  $15 million worth of it.  But then again, that is the kind of thing that happens when you sell more electric cars than anyone else in the industry.

Tesla CEO Has To Be Pleased His Company Is Finally In The Black

Tesla CEO Has To Be Pleased His Company Is Finally In The Black

After the markets closed, Tesla announced a profit of 12 cents a share, or around $15 million (the street estimate was for four cents), while revenue for the 4th quarter rose 83% at $563 million, about $60 million more than the street expected.  About $7 million came from “various deliverable under the Mercedes Benz B-Class EV program.”

Expectations for this quarter were indeed very high, as indicated by the near 2/3rds jump in share prices this year, and 35% for the month before the earnings were reported today.

Tesla said of the event in a statement to shareholders:

“Tesla reached profitability in the first quarter of 2013 for the first time in our ten year history. We exceeded our own targets for deliveries, significantly expanded gross margin, and improved execution throughout the company. Excluding non-cash warrant and stock option items, we generated a profit of $15 million. Including those factors, our GAAP profit was $11 million. Importantly, we achieved profitability despite the benefit of a one-time accounting gain related to the DOE warrant.”

Tesla Model S Is A ZEV Credit Earning Machine

Tesla Model S Is A ZEV Credit Earning Machine

In the only part of the earnings report that could really cast any doubt on future earnings, Tesla’s financials show that $68 million worth of ZEV credits were sold in Q1 of 2013, a resource that can not be tapped close to this extent in future quarters…and without them, the company would not yet be profitable.

“We expect (ZEV revenue) to decline significantly in future quarters, as ZEV credits will only apply to about 1/6 of worldwide deliveries, versus roughly half of US deliveries, and the price per credit has declined.”

Regardless of selling any future ZEV credits or not, Tesla reaffirmed to shareholders that the company would achieve gross margins of 25% by the 4th quarter of this year.  For Q1, gross margins came in at 17%.

As for the sales of the Model S itself, Tesla bested an earlier estimate of selling 4,750 cars in the first three months of the year by stating they moved more like 4,900 Model S sedans to customers, while noting all the proper paperwork had been done to achieve those numbers.  Last month, an email sent out by Tesla asking customers to firm up orders had cast some doubt on the validity of sales results.

“During Q1, we consistently produced 400 or more Model S vehicles per week, for a total of over 5,000 during the quarter. We recognized 4,900 vehicles as revenue, exceeding our initial Q1 guidance of 4,500, despite physically delivering a higher number of vehicles, as the standard for revenue recognition was extremely high.”

Tesla Says It Now Expects to Sell 21,000 Model S Sedans In 2013

Tesla Says It Now Expects to Sell 21,000 Model S Sedans In 2013

On the future outlook, Tesla says that they are seeing “strong global demand for Model S” and are receiving orders at a rate greater than 20,000 per year.  As a footnote however, the company did not express this metric post reservation cancellations, but did note that the US reservation system has now been eliminated thanks to more reliable vehicle production in the quarter…so that may be a moot point.

Tesla noted that their service network expanded to 41 locations, up 12 in the quarter, while hoping to add 18 more throughout the year.  As for boutique stories themselves, Tesla now has 34 of them, with a plan to open about 15 more in 2013; half in Europe and Asia.


  • Tesla expects to build about 5,000 Model S vehicles in Q2
  • Some cars will be in transit to Europe for start of deliveries in Q3, so deliveries will be “slightly over” 4,500 vehicles in the next quarter
  • For 2013 in total, Tesla increases guidance from 20,000 Model S sedans to 21,000
  • Tesla expects to achieve gross margin in the “high teens” in Q2 when factoring the loss of lower ZEV credits, and a lower average selling price on the Model S thanks to a higher mix of 60 kWh cars
  • Cancelled 40 kWh cars will have range-limited 60 kWh packs which will also adversely affect gross margins in the near term
  • Operating expenses as well as R&D expenses are expected to increase slightly in Q2

Overall, the report looks about as good as Tesla could have hoped for, and investors seem to agree as the stock traded up as much as $19.98 (36%) @ $75.77, before falling back slightly to $69.40, still good for a massive 24.4% gain (+$13.61).   A real time quote can be found here.

Tesla shareholder letter and all the financials can be found here.

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18 Comments on "Tesla Turns Profit For First Time In History For Q1, Beats Street Estimates Easily"

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I think Elon foresaw the company of today back 3 years ago. Nobody believed he could do it. Congrats to a lot of hard work and it seems to be paying off in sales, exports and a little better future prospects.

Congratulations Elon Musk and Tesla Motors.

Hopefully one of these days I can sell my TSLA shares and buy a Model X 😉

Whohoo I’m rich:-) I bought 30 shares, just to be part of the Tesla dream….
Putting my personal finance aside, this is very good news for Tesla, glad to hear this.

Thanks for bringing this so quickly Jay,

Hehe, no problem Robster, we are all about the quickness here, (=

That being said, you have to forgive any grammatical errors I make on the fly. I like to get the data out immediately and then round out the story.

/flying without an editor at launch on this one


Editorial team has arrived…Probably only a few grammatical errors left now!!!

And this editor can’t keep up with so many stories as of late! But, a nice problem to have for such a successful site 🙂

I came really close to buying some TSLA shares a few months ago. I’m kicking myself for not doing it.

I bought some – twice and sold in the higher 40s. Should have held. Bought more at $55.40 yesterday just in case. Tesla surpassing the 4500 for Q1 was the indication that they were really doing better than many thought.

Incredible! Bought a few shares at 60. Have been watching what BMW is doing with the i3, I’d really rather buy a comparable Tesla instead!

@$70/share right now

The breakdown on the credits was interesting. Thx for reporting that quick draw!

These will be big sellers in Europe. The Germans will have to step up now. This is a direct challenge to their high end cars.

How many more could Tesla possibly build? Mayby they need to build these in UK?

Got in at $28 back when people were afraid of the stock because it went down a little. Don’t be afraid of the future!

Shouldn’t have sold my stock last week. *kicks self*

Well Done Tesla & Elon – happy EV $ all round
Excellent !

While this is news both encouraging and promising, it remains to be seen if such small volume “single product line” production will be able to produce sustainable profits to keep the automaker afloat given the capitol and expenditures required to this point and during production.

By comparison General Motors this week reported a $0.9 billion dollar profit (0.76 cents per share) for Q1 which also exceeded analyst expectations.

While I love the car, Tesla has LONG WAY to go.(as does GM obviously)
But I hope they both can get there.