Investor's Corner

Why Tesla might be selling CPO cars at a loss

Tesla now has a certified pre-owned page on its company website

Analyst Paulo Santos writes for Seeking Alpha that Tesla may be losing money on its CPO program. If so, that could be a concern for investors.

Seeking Alpha analyst Paulo Santos thinks that Tesla might be selling its certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles at a loss based on analysis of the company’s past shareholder letters. According to Santos, CPO sales in Q4 of 2015 saw a significant change for the worse in gross margin under its “service and other revenues” segment. Tesla describes this segment as:

Services and other revenue consists of repair and maintenance services, service plans and merchandise, sales of pre-owned Tesla vehicles, sales of electric vehicle powertrain components and systems to other manufacturers, Tesla Energy products, and net sales of non-Tesla vehicle trade-ins. (emphasis added)

Referencing Tesla’s Q4 P&L, Santos highlighted (in red) revenue of $97.4 million and cost of revenues of $99.4 million for the segment representing CPOs. This places the gross margin at a negative $2 million or -2.1% of sales. In other words, Tesla seems to be taking a loss on its CPO program and running the program on a negative gross margin.

Paulo Santos chart

Santos points out that reconditioning expenses and the cost of the extended warranty that Tesla provides with every CPO unit it sells have to be factored in before determining gross profit. In many cases, those two items can amount to thousands of dollars in extra costs for the sale of a CPO car.

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