Tesla Worried by China Even as Deliveries Surge

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Tesla announced record quarterly car production numbers on Tuesday but warned it was facing major problems with selling cars in China due to new tariffs that will force it to accelerate investment in its factory in Shanghai.

The California-based electric carmaker, emerging from several months of turmoil around its Chief Executive Elon Musk, confirmed numbers leaked to an industry news site on Monday that showed it produced roughly 80,000 cars in the third quarter.

Deliveries reached a record 83,500, above Wall Street estimates of 80,000 and including almost 56,000 of the Model 3 sedan whose ramp-up is widely seen as crucial to the company’s drive to become profitable.

That overshadowed concerns expressed by the company over a 40 percent tariff being charged by China for the import of its cars, which it said was blocking sales in the world’s biggest electric car market. Shares gained 0.5 percent at the open.

“Yes it sounds like the tariff comments could haircut some of their profit plans but the production ramp is very impressive and it should continue to move higher,” analyst Chaim Siegel of Elazar Advisors said.

“The company’s at an inflection point for units and profit.”

Tesla did say that it had missed its weekly Model 3 production target on Tuesday and outlined a series of barriers it faced due to the worsening of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

The electric car maker said it was speeding up construction of its Shanghai factory as it seeks to combat a huge competitive disadvantage against other producers and even other imported cars, which it said are carrying a lower 15 percent tariff.

“Tesla is now operating at a 55 percent to 60 percent cost disadvantage compared to the exact same car locally produced in China,” the company said.

Musk in July landed a deal with Chinese authorities to build a new auto plant in Shanghai, its first factory outside the United States, that would double the size of the electric car maker’s global manufacturing.

The company flagged the tariff issue in August but said only that it was likely to have “some” impact on Chinese volumes and would not heavily affect global vehicle deliveries.

“With production stabilized, delivery and outbound vehicle logistics were our main challenges during Q3,” the company said on Tuesday. “We made many improvements to these processes throughout the quarter, and plan to make further improvements in Q4 so that we can scale successfully.”

Tesla produced over 5,300 Model 3 cars in the last week of September, falling short of its target of 6,000.

Overall in the third quarter the company produced 53,239 of the cars in the third quarter, in line with its target of 50,000 to 55,000 Model 3s, and delivered 55,840 of the vehicles to customers.

Tesla first met a long-held target of 5,000 vehicles per week at the end of June after a series of production bottlenecks and delays. Since then the company has been striving to sustain and increase that level.

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