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Tesla ramps up Model S production, Toyota profit triples

November 05, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

Electric car company Tesla Motors Inc. is rapidly increasing its ability to turn out cars but is still losing money.

The Palo Alto automaker said Monday that it lost $105 million in the third quarter compared with $65 million in the same period a year earlier.  But the company’s revenue jumped 88% to $50 million as it starts to deliver its Model S luxury electric hatchback to customers.

Tesla built just 350 cars and delivered only 250 to customers during the third quarter, but the company is now producing cars at its factory in Fremont at a rate of about 200 a week, or 10,000 annually.

That’s up from just five a week when it launched production in June and now approaches “the critical threshold needed for Tesla to generate positive operating cash flow,” said Elon Musk, the automaker’s chief executive.

By the end of the year, Tesla will have pushed the rate to 400 cars per week or 20,000 per year, he said.

“Given Tesla’s rate of progress over the past few months, we are confident of being able to deliver 2,500 to 3,000 Model S vehicles in Q4 and over 20,000 in 2013,” Musk said.

He said Tesla continues to be on track to post revenue guidance of $400 million to $440 million this year.

“The ramp-up in production is modestly ahead of our forecast,” said Elaine S. Kwei, an analyst at Jefferies & Co.  She said investors will be pleased.

Tesla shares rose $2.24, or 8%, to $31.16 in midday trading.

Kwei noted that the Model S is getting rave reviews from the automotive press.

The car offers seating for five adults and sells for about $50,000 to more than $100,000 depending on trim level and options. It is fast, boasting a zero-to-60 mph acceleration of less than six seconds.

Also Monday, Toyota Motor Corp. said its profit in the latest quarter more than tripled, to 257.9 billion yen ($3.2 billion). Sales rose 18% to 5.4 trillion yen ($67.6 billion).

The automaker is rebounding from production and inventory problems created by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year.

Its U.S. sales have been particularly strong this year.  Through the first 10 months of the year, Toyota has sold more than 1.7 million autos in the U.S., a 30% gain and more than double the industry rate of increase.

Toyota now accounts for 14.4% of the U.S. auto market, up from 12.6% during the first 10 months of 2011.

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