STILL GOT IT

The Tesla Model S has yet to wear out its welcome with car buyers

Tesla has been selling its flagship Model S cars for at least three years. And people are still buying them.

More than ever before, in fact.

Tesla has revealed that in the first quarter of 2015, it delivered 10,030 of the vehicles, which sell for about $70,000 apiece.

Tesla-quarterly-Model-S-deliveries-Deliveries_chartbuilder (5)

In a sense, the continued sales strength of the Model S isn’t surprising. Critics still gush over the car; in February, it was named best car by the influential Consumer Reports magazine for the second year in a row, and this week, Wall Street Journal auto columnist Dan Neil declared (paywall): “The only ones who don’t think the Model S is the best [car] in the world haven’t driven one.” (While not a professional auto critic, I basically agree.)

But if you follow the day-to-day analysis of the company in the media, the fact that the Model S just had a record quarter is somewhat unexpected. Concerns about demand for the car, particularly in China, have been rising, while the newer—and much delayed—Model X SUV won’t be available in a meaningful way until later this year.

It was a bit unusual for Tesla to release the latest Model S delivery figures before it reported quarterly earnings, but the company says it did this “because inaccurate sources of information are sometimes used by others to project the number of vehicle deliveries.”

Wall Street certainly was encouraged by the data. Tesla’s notoriously volatile shares rose 7% yesterday (April 6).

But even analysts who are bullish on the stock are sounding cautious on the delivery data.

“[We] believe this news evidences Tesla’s progress chipping away at concerns that Model S demand is waning,” Stifel analyst James Albertine wrote in a note to clients. “However, we would stop short of calling this release the ‘proof’ that will ultimately drive [short sellers] to capitulate.”

And as the Wall Street Journal’s Heard on the Street column points out (paywall), Tesla may need to raise capital to fund its aggressive expansion plans.

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