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LIVE BLOG: Tesla (TSLA) Q3 2019 earnings call updates

Tesla Model 3 production line in Gigafactory 3, Shanghai, China. (Credit: Tesla)

Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) third-quarter earnings call comes on the heels of a blockbuster earnings report that saw the electric car maker prove its critics wrong by posting a surprise profit and showing earnings per share of $1.91, far beyond Wall St’s expec. By beating Wall Street’s estimates, Tesla appears to be on the cusp of changing the narrative surrounding the company’s immediate future once more.

As revealed in the company’s Q3 2019 Update Letter, Tesla is GAAP profitable once more. The company is also seeing free cash flow, something that was largely unexpected during the days leading up to the earnings report.

For today’s earnings call, Tesla’s executives are expected to address questions surrounding the company’s plans for the immediate and CEO Elon Musk’s apparent ability to now underpromise and overdeliver. Tesla stock is currently trading +20.30% at $306.38 in after-hours trading. The earnings call will likely affect these results further, for better or for worse. 

The following are live updates from Tesla’s Q3 2019 earnings call. I will be updating this article in real-time, so please keep refreshing the page to view the latest updates on this story.

16:35 PT – And that concludes the third-quarter earnings call! We saw a far more tempered, far more restrained Elon Musk, and a more confident Zach Kirkhorn. Calm, composed and quick, this earnings call appears to be one of Tesla’s smoothest yet. I’m inclined to be more optimistic about the company’s future after this Q&A session. And it appears that the company’s shareholders are too. At the end of the call, TSLA stock has remained where it was when the session started. No wild swings — and everyone’s the better for it.

16:34 PT – Dan Levy from Credit Suisse questions Gigafactory 3’s Model 3 production ramp, and how smooth will it be. Elon notes that he is optimistic about Gigafactory 3’s ramp, but not on a week-by-week basis. This is quite impressive for Elon Musk. In previous earnings calls where he was much more emotionally charged, I can’t help but think that he would have given an ambitious estimate as a response. Not so much anymore.

16:30 PT – Pierre Ferragu of New Street Research asks about how Tesla’s thinking about Model S and X have evolved, and if Model 3 has cannibalized sales of the flagships. Elon explains that the S and X are niche products, made in low volumes and higher prices. “We continue to make them more for sentimental reasons than anything else,” Musk said, adding that “If you’re buying an electric (full-sized sedan) and you don’t buy a Model S, you’re making a mistake.” It is evident from Elon’s statements that the Model S still holds a special, special place in his heart.

Kirkhorn did state that Model S and X are seeing more production lately due to increasing demand. Though delivery numbers for the Model S and X this quarter actually “understate the interest in the product,” he said. Elon also announced an upcoming upgrade for the Model S, X, and 3 that will improve comfort, feel and range. VP for Tech Drew Baglino adds that this upcoming updates will make Supercharging better too.

16:23 PT – Emmanuel Rosner of Deutsche Bank asks about electric pickups, particularly the Tesla Pickup Truck. He also asks about the baseline for Tesla’s baseline for orders quarter to date. Musk responds by stating that the Tesla Cybertruck is the company’s best ever, though he also mentioned that he could be wrong about this.

Kirkhorn, speaking about Tesla’s baseline orders, noted that the company is focused on moving quickly as it can. “We believe everyone should be driving an electric car,” he said. Musk adds a long-term (very long) estimate of 20 million vehicles a year.

16:20 PT – Maynard Um of Macquarie Research asks about Tesla’s software and its potential monetization opportunities, Elon reiterated the company’s intention of giving customers the most fun they can have with a car. “People spend a couple hours on average in a car. It’s a lot of time,” Musk said, adding that Tesla can look at its software for profit down the line, but for now, the company is simply focused on improving user experience.

16:16 PT – Morgan Stanley asks if vehicles produced in China could be the most profitable vehicle in Tesla’s lineup. Kirkhorn states that Tesla expects China vehicles to be in line with the cars from Fremont. The company is still working on landing the right mix for the Chinese market. “For now, it’s safe to assume that it’s in line with the margins of cars coming out of the Fremont factory,” he said.

When asked if Tesla will be open to the idea of becoming a supplier of batteries and drivetrains to other OEMs, Elon Musk stated that it is in line with Tesla’s mission to help other carmakers in their EV initiatives. “It’s something we’re open to,” Musk said.

16:13 PT – Daniel Galves from Wolfe Research. He asks about the auto gross margin from Q2 to Q3, as well as potential headwinds for the Shanghai plant. CTO Kirkhorn states that Tesla is working hard to prevent ramp inefficiencies for Gigafactory 3 that it experienced in Fremont. He also explained that Tesla is working on a way to implement a “targeted” way of adjusting prices for its products.

16:08 PT – Elon Musk confirms that Gigafactory 3 Phase 2 is for battery and module production. More construction is due in Shanghai as well, as preparations for Model Y production gets underway. As for Tesla Insurance, the CTO stated that the service will be expanded to other US states, as well as some foreign territories. “The goal here is to make sure that customers have an alternative if their insurance rates are high,” Kirkhorn said.

16:05 PT – Asked about the DeepScale acquisition and how it could help Tesla’s FSD initiative, Musk stated that the startup is a very tiny company. That being said, DeepScale has expertise in reducing the size of Neural Nets, “which is very helpful in slightly accelerating FSD,” he said.

16:00 PT – When asked if Tesla would consider selling NoA and Summon features as individual modules, Musk stated that the company will remain selling the suite as a whole. Responding to an inquiry about the Model Y’s launch and if it would interfere with Model 3 production, Musk assured that the electric sedan should not be affected that much.

15:57 PT – Questions from Say are up. First up, advertising. Is word of mouth enough? Elon says it’s more than enough. “We have no plans to advertise at this time,” he says. Tesla may do advertising in the future, but they will be more informative in nature.

When asked about Tesla Energy, Musk stated that he expects the business to be even bigger than the company’s automotive business. “Tesla Energy is the least appreciated element (of Tesla). For about 18 months, almost 2 years, we had to divert a tremendous amount of resources for the Model 3 production ramp,” Musk said, explaining that Tesla Energy’s resources paid the price for the electric sedan’s challenges. Now that Model 3 is humming along, Tesla solar and storage could see “crazy growth” in the future.

15:53 PT – Kunal Girotra, Energy Operations, discusses the improvements in Tesla’s energy business, which has seen a rise in recent months. “If it doesn’t print money, we’ll fix it or take it back,” Musk confidently said, referring to the company’s revived solar business. He also mentions how homes’ value increases if they are equipped with clean energy equipment such as solar panels.

Girotra also mentions that Tesla is able to offer low solar prices because it doesn’t do advertising, lowering the company’s costs of acquisition. An enthusiastic Elon Musk adds more details, interrupting Kunal. This is not annoyed Elon though — rather, the CEO in this call is more like a very excited Musk.

15:47 PT – CFO Zachary Kirkhorn takes the stage. He explains how Tesla achieved GAAP profitability. Model S and X ASPs increased, Model 3 ASPs declined slightly, the CFO noted. “With the release of Smart Summon, we were able to recognize $30 million of deferred revenue,” Kirkhorn added, emphasizing Tesla’s strong positive free cash flow in the third quarter.

Kirkhorn emphasizes that despite increases to production backlogs, orders continue to grow for the company’s electric cars. Demand is strong. The no-demand narrative is dead, and Tesla is stepping on its carcass at this point. The CFO also pledges to further reduce costs.

15:43 PT – Early access release of a “feature complete” version of Full Self-Driving is expected to be rolled out by the end of the year, says Musk. He adds that Tesla is focused on opening more Gigafactories in several countries. Lastly, Tesla is also releasing Solar Roof Version 3, which is “finally ready for the big time.” Official product launch of Solar Roof Version 3 will be done tomorrow.

15:40 PT – CEO Elon Musk thanks the Tesla team for pushing hard to achieve GAAP profitability. “Operating costs are at their lowest levels since Model 3 production started,” Musk said. He also mentions that Gigafactory 3 is already conducting Model 3 production activities. Equipment in Gigafactory 3 was installed while the factory shell was still under construction.

Gigafactory 4 will be announced by the end of 2019. Tesla is “confident” that Model Y could enter production in Summer 2020. “Model Y will outsell S, X, and 3 combined.” Musk also mentions V10, which includes the first version of Smart Summon. “There’s now been a million uses of Smart Summon.” A new version of Smart Summon is set to be released soon, taking the learnings that were gathered from the feature’s initial release.

15:35 PT – And so it begins. Senior Director of Investor Relations Martin Viecha takes the stage. He provides an overview of the topics that the earnings call will cover. Hands over the stage to Elon Musk.

15:31 PT – The earnings call should start any moment now. That being said, it’s understandable if Tesla is taking its time. Unlike the previous quarters, the company is coming to this call not to explain a loss, but to highlight a victory.

15:26 PT – It’s now just a few minutes before the Q3 2019 earnings call is expected to begin. This is a very exciting time for Tesla.

LIVE BLOG: Tesla (TSLA) Q3 2019 earnings call updates
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