Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) is down on early Friday trading amidst news of the company’s new round of layoffs, as well as the impending production ramp of the $35,000 Standard Range Model 3. The rationale behind the 7% job cuts was extensively explained by Elon Musk in an email to Tesla employees, which was shared on the company’s blog.
Musk acknowledged the challenges that Tesla is currently facing, particularly as the company is now setting the stage for the impending release of the Model 3’s most aggressively-priced variant. In his message, Musk noted that in the near future, Tesla’s challenge would lie in developing vehicles and energy products that are attainable for mainstream customers.
“Looking ahead at our mission of accelerating the advent of sustainable transport and energy, which is important for all life on Earth, we face an extremely difficult challenge: making our cars, batteries and solar products cost-competitive with fossil fuels. While we have made great progress, our products are still too expensive for most people,” Musk wrote.
Perhaps most notable in the letter, though, is Musk’s discussion about Tesla’s capability to make a profit. The Tesla CEO noted that he considers Q3 2018’s 4% profit to be the most meaningful in the company’s 15 years of existence. Musk pointed out, though, that the third quarter’s profit was partly the result of a strong push to sell higher-priced variants of the vehicle — the Long Range Model 3 AWD and the Model 3 Performance — to customers in North America. As for Q4 2018, Musk stated that there is a good chance Tesla would be able to make a profit as well, though not in the same level as the third quarter.
“In Q4, preliminary, unaudited results indicate that we again made a GAAP profit, but less than Q3,” Musk wrote.
To help the company maintain profitability, Tesla is adopting Q3 2018’s strategy this quarter, with the electric car maker pushing the Model 3 Performance and the Long Range Model 3 AWD to customers in Europe and China. Musk also stated that Tesla is aiming to deliver “at least the Mid Range Model 3 variant in all markets” starting around May, in order to reach a greater demographic for the electric sedan. Such a system would likely serve Tesla well, at least until the company could start producing the Standard Range Model 3, which starts at the ever-elusive price of $35,000.
In a statement to CNBC, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives notes that Tesla’s international Model 3 push would likely determine the company’s success in the first half of 2019. In the second half, though, Ives stated that Tesla would need to start producing more affordable versions of the electric sedan for the international market.
“If you think about the trajectory, the first half of 2019 is really Europe coming onboard. But then, ultimately, in the second half, you need the mid-range Model 3 to really start to kick in,” he said.
Tesla’s Model 3 ramp might have already reached a level where the company is able to distribute the vehicle to other countries, but the electric car maker is only about halfway done. Tesla eventually aims to produce 10,000 Model 3 per week, to meet the expected demand for the vehicle in the international market. To accomplish this, Tesla continues to optimize its production capabilities in Fremont, while accelerating the construction of Gigafactory 3 in China. The latter is expected to complete initial construction by the end of summer, with the facility manufacturing the first China-made, “affordable” Model 3 by the end of the year.
Elon Musk’s recent letter to Tesla employees can be accessed here.
As of writing, Tesla stock is trading down 8.78% at $316.81 per share.
Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.