Tesla's Whirlwind April

Apr 25, 2019
Originally published on April 25, 2019 8:14 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Tesla, the darling of electric car companies, is taking a major hit to its bottom line. Sales are way down. And in the first three months of this year, Tesla lost more than $700 million. Here's NPR's Camila Domonoske.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Wall Street was expecting a loss, but Tesla's numbers were worse than anticipated. CEO Elon Musk told investors it's not a lack of appetite for the cars.

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ELON MUSK: We do see strong demand for vehicles.

DOMONOSKE: Tesla faced logistical challenges in delivering cars overseas last quarter, and it also had to pay off a sizable debt. So Tesla says sales will recover. And it still plans on selling up to 400,000 vehicles this year.

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MUSK: I don't have a crystal ball, so it's hard for me to say. But my impression is that demand is quite solid.

DOMONOSKE: But many auto industry experts are skeptical. Consider the flagship Model 3.

JESSICA CALDWELL: The vehicle was so overhyped, you know, with a massive wait list and people wanting it so badly.

DOMONOSKE: Jessica Caldwell is an analyst at Edmunds.

CALDWELL: Every vehicle has its shelf life of being the coolest thing on the block. And I think that that has certainly starting to fade.

DOMONOSKE: The Model 3 is the bestselling luxury car in the U.S., but deliveries declined 20% over last quarter. Sales of the more expensive models dropped even more. And that's after a massive delivery push in the final days of the quarter. The disappointing numbers come after a tumultuous spring for Tesla. It announced it would close most of its stores then reversed course. It offered a vehicle at the long-promised price of $35,000 then pulled that version off its online ordering system. Four board members will be leaving without replacements. And now Musk faces another deadline to settle a dispute with regulators over his sometimes-misleading tweets. Meanwhile, Tesla is trying to direct attention away from its sales figures and toward the future and the company's achievements in developing self-driving cars. Musk continues to make ambitious promises.

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MUSK: Next year, for sure, we'll have over a million robo-taxis on the road.

DOMONOSKE: Analysts like Jessica Caldwell are skeptical, to say the least.

CALDWELL: Will it happened one day? Yes. But I think the likelihood of it happening by then - by the timeline he's proposing is quite preposterous.

DOMONOSKE: Earlier this week, Musk acknowledged that he doesn't always meet his boldly declared deadlines. Sometimes, I'm not on time, he said, but I'll get it done.

Camila Domonoske, NPR News.

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