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Tesla hires Google's Jason Wheeler to be next CFO

Tesla's stock swung higher Tuesday afternoon on strong guidance for future deliveries — despite the company reporting third-quarter results that missed Wall Street expectations.

The company said it saw an adjusted loss of 58 cents per share on $1.24 billion in revenue. Analysts had expected Tesla to report a loss of about 50 cents per share on $1.26 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Although shares initially fell in after hours trading, the company's stock jumped 10 percent higher once the quarterly results were digested further.

Tesla Chairman and CEO Elon Musk announced on the earnings call that his company had hired former Google executive Jason Wheeler to be Tesla's next CFO. Wheeler had served as a vice president of finance at Google, according to his LinkedIn account.

Musk said Wheeler will take over for current CFO Deepak Ahuja, whose planned retirement had previously been announced, next month. Wheeler and Ahuja will work closely together for a few months to have a smooth transition, Musk said.

Jason was "basically the number two finance guy at Google," Musk said, explaining that his new hire had been in charge of the company's global finance function. Some reports earlier this year suggested that Wheeler could have been tapped to be Google's CFO.

"I just thought he was a super smart guy, and really understood what we were doing, and was a great cultural fit for the company," Musk said of Wheeler.

Tesla showroom in Beijing, China
Wang Zhao | AFP | Getty Images
Tesla showroom in Beijing, China

Tesla said it had delivered a company record 11,603 vehicles in the quarter, slightly more than the 11,580 it estimated in October.

The automaker also said that it plans to build between 15,000 and 17,000 vehicles in fourth quarter, and to deliver between 17,000 and 19,000 — meaning the company would make 50,000 to 52,000 deliveries for the year.

Analysts had expected on average about 16,960 deliveries for the fourth quarter, according to StreetAccount. Still, the company acknowledged some production issues for the current quarter.

"The primary limiting factor to higher Q4 deliveries is the near term ramp of Model X production, with the biggest constraint being the supply of components related to the second row monopost seats," Musk and Ahuja wrote in the quarterly shareholder letter. "In addition we, and some of our other Model X suppliers, are still ramping up and fine-tuning production. These factors add uncertainty to our build plans during Q4, but we feel emphasizing quality is the right decision for our customers."

Analysts were also watching closing for updates on the Gigafactory and Model 3 — the mass-market sedan expected to be unveiled in 2016. Tesla said it is on track to unveil the Model 3 in late March 2016, and that its Gigafactory construction and production are ahead of schedule.

In fact, Tesla said its current plans to begin cell production in 2016 for Tesla Energy products at the Gigafactory are "several quarters ahead of our initial plan."

Musk and Ahuja also used the shareholder letter to highlight Tesla's growth in China.

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"In China, our newest major market, Q3 Model S orders increased substantially from Q2, due in part to the opening of two new retail locations," they wrote. "We expect order growth in China to remain strong with more store openings and the recent policy changes in Beijing and other major cities that allow buyers of Tesla vehicles to bypass license plate restrictions."

The company reported on Tuesday that it had a negative free cash flow of about $596 million for the three months ending September 30. That compares to the negative $565 million in the prior quarter, and the negative $312 million in the year-ago period.

Tesla's stock has fallen more than 18 percent in the past three months amid investor doubts about the company's future. Analysts will be closely tuned to watch for what investors can expect from the automaker during the upcoming year.

The production ramp up in connection with the Model X and Model S is a key element for that future, according to Pacific Crest Securities research analyst Brad Erickson. Tesla's website has revealed there's an eight-month waitlist for the Model X.

"We think there is a significant execution risk involved," Erickson told CNBC before the earnings announcement.

As for the long-term plan, Musk dodged a question from an analyst on whether the company could ever offer an autonomous vehicle to a ride-sharing company like Uber. Laughing as the analyst pushed back, Musk admitted that "I think it's quite a smart question, actually."

"I think there is a right time to make announcements and this is not that time," he added. "Nor is our strategy fully baked here...we'd prefer to announce something when we think we've got the full story understood."

As for the company's auto-pilot system, Musk said early data indicated that many accidents had been prevented by the technology — and no accidents had been created by it.

— Reuters CNBC's Stephanie Landsman contributed to this report.