Tesla's delivery miss tests investors' faith

Tesla misses delivery target
Tesla misses delivery target

For Tesla skeptics, the automaker's second-quarter delivery report gave them yet another reason to say "I told you so."

The electric vehicle maker said over the weekend that it delivered 14,370 vehicles during its recently ended three-month period, which was well below analysts' target for 17,000. It's the second straight quarter the company's deliveries have fallen short of expectations.

The miss added fuel to the fire of Tesla's doubters, who have consistently criticized its inability to keep up with demand. That shortfall was particularly pronounced with its Model X vehicle, which stumbled out of the gate due to its complex design. Though production of this vehicle has since improved, it hasn't been enough to quiet the company's critics.

Yet while many on Wall Street questioned Tesla's ability to meet its full-year delivery goals, others were undeterred by its latest results. Tesla shares moved just slightly lower on Tuesday, toward $209.

"This is not the first time Tesla has missed an aggressive target. Tesla has admitted to over-reaching on the complex design of the Model X, and they are paying the price," Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache said in a note to clients.

Indeed, the automaker in April admitted that it was having trouble delivering on its goals, mentioning its own "hubris." But loyal investors have continued to stand by the automaker.

Although Tesla shares fell 3 percent in the first trading session following its announcement, such a decline is hardly enough to raise eyebrows — especially for the company's fanatics. Tesla's stock price is notoriously volatile, with shares swinging between $286.65 and $141.05 over the past year.

Workers assemble cars on the line at Tesla's factory in Fremont, California.
David Butow | Corbis | Getty Images

For its part, Tesla sought to assure them it would be able to deliver 80,000 vehicles for the full year — within the range of its prior goal of between 80,000 and 90,000 — thanks to an expected dramatic increase in production during the second half.

The automaker said it plans to build an average 2,200 vehicles a week in the third quarter, and 2,400 per week in the fourth quarter. That, according to the company, will allow it to deliver more than 50,000 vehicles in the second half, making up for its first-quarter shortfall. The company said there are already 5,150 vehicles headed to customers around the world, which will give third-quarter deliveries a healthy boost.

Still, many on Wall Street remain skeptical that Tesla will be able to meet its goal. Ultimately, whether it's able to do so depends on how quickly it can ramp up production of the Model X, which investors likely won't know until the fourth quarter.

"We believe most production/supplier issues related to the Model X have been resolved, which should allow for a smoother production ramp in the second half," said Ben Kallo, an analyst at Robert W. Baird.

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