A Tsunami of money could be headed Tesla's way in the next year - and that's bad news for the bears
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Tesla investors have been preoccupied with the Model 3, Elon Musk's behavior, and the promise of profits - but they've been overlooking Tesla's potential surge in revenues.
- Tesla could see massive topline improvements over the next year and a half.
- If Tesla can ride out its current assorted crises, this ocean of forthcoming cash could take the company to a new level and undermine the bear thesis.
If you've been closely following Tesla and CEO Elon Musk for the past six months, you could be forgiven for thinking that the company is on the ropes and that Musk's days are numbered.
There was the first-quarter earnings-call outburst. The Twitter feuds. The mini-sub fracas. The open letter begging Musk to cool it.
Meanwhile, Tesla's business continued to chug along. The carmaker will report second-quarter earnings in a few weeks, and while the "earnings" are again expected by analysts to be extremely negative and Tesla's cash-burn anticipated to be staggering, revenue should continue a trend.
Tesla has been adding about $200 million to the topline every quarter for several years. In only one of those recent quarters - Q3 2016 - did the company post a profit, due largely to the sale of a zero-emissions credits, which Tesla can stockpile thanks to its status as an automaker that sells only electric vehicles.
Forgetting about the company's solar and energy-storage businesses, automotive revenue has come via the high-priced Model S sedan and Model X SUV, both of which sell for around $100,000 on average. Last year, Tesla delivered about 100,000 examples of these vehicles and should repeat that in 2018.
This brings us to the Model 3, Tesla's less expensive and much-troubled vehicle. After launching in July of 2017, the Model 3 has endured a fraught birth, routinely failing to hit production targets. Teslas celebrated a run-rate of 5,000 Model 3's per week at the end of June, a pace that may or may not be sustainable.
But lost in the brouhaha over Tesla's woes as a manufacturing enterprise is the simple fact that if 5,000-per-week could be tough to sustain, 2,000 per week should be far easier. And the Model 3's Tesla is now building aren't the el-cheapo $35,000 versions; they're the costly upmarket trim levels, with the most expensive topping out at nearly $80,000.
Over a six-month period, that translates into $2.4 billion in revenue - or, by my math, over ten times in topline improvement in two quarters, rather than a time period of more than two years at Tesla's historic rate of growth.
That's a tsunami of cash on the way for Tesla, and I've been conservative in my estimates. Very conservative.
There's no guarantee that the surge in revenue will convert to bottom-line profits. Tesla might still have to raise funds in 2018 or 2019. But the intensified cash-flow is going to be an issue for Tesla bears. A major issue.
Get the latest Tesla stock price here.
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