Tesla’s sales of electric Model 3 sedans and Y hatchbacks grew in the first quarter, helping Elon Musk’s highly valued automaker report delivery figures that topped analysts’ expectations but that were up only modestly from the previous quarter.
The company said early Friday it delivered 184,800 vehicles to customers worldwide in January through March, more than double the year-earlier figure when the outbreak of Covid-19 briefly halted production at its plants in California and Shanghai. Still, the increase from 2020’s fourth quarter was just 2.2%. The company had been expected to report deliveries of about 172,000 units, due to factors including the global shortage of chips and electronic components that’s pounded the auto industry this year. “The strength in the quarter was driven by Model 3/Y, which was a jaw dropper and came in at 182,780 deliveries and crushed the consensus estimate of 160,230 for the quarter with Model S/X at 2,020 vs. 12,060 with the miss chip driven and well telegraphed to the Street,” Wedbush equity analyst Dan Ives said in a research note. “With chip shortages and related production issues the Street was thinking a 160k-165k number was in the cards,” he said, describing the results as a “massive homerun” for investors who are bullish on Tesla. Continued production growth and a recent string of profitable quarters indicate Tesla has attained some operational stability, a quality that’s eluded the company for much of its history. Musk is pushing a massive build of capacity with ongoing expansion of production in China, a new plant nearing completion in Berlin and work on a second large-scale U.S. Gigafactory in Austin, Texas. At the same time, the company is about to begin facing broad-ranging competition in the electric vehicle market, as global auto giants including General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Hyundai all expand their battery-powered offerings and startups such as Rivian, Lucid and Fisker ready products that will compete directly with Tesla’s top-sellers. Tesla doesn’t break out delivery figures by country or region, making it difficult to know where demand is highest and where it’s declining. However, it did say that the start of Model Y sales in China was a positive factor. “We are encouraged by the strong reception of the Model Y in China and are quickly progressing to full production capacity,” the company said in a statement. “The new Model S and Model X have also been exceptionally well received, with the new equipment installed and tested in Q1 and we are in the early stages of ramping production.” Production in the quarter totaled 180,338 vehicles, up just 0.3% from 2020’s fourth quarter. Tesla doesn’t break out production by facility. The company will release quarterly financial results in a few weeks. Tesla shares fell about 1% on Thursday. Markets were closed on April 2 for Good Friday.