Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) fourth-quarter and full year 2018 earnings saw the Silicon Valley-based electric car maker beat Wall Street revenue estimates after posting $7.2 billion in revenue but fall below earnings estimates with a GAAP profit of $139 million due to a $54 million charge attributable to non-controlling interests.
Tesla posted a smaller profit this quarter, as lower-priced variants of Model 3 hit the market, yet the company managed to meet the bold and ambitious target set by Elon Musk after Q3 2018’s surprise profit. It should be noted that Tesla’s second consecutive profitable quarter did not come easy for the carmaker, with the company having to trim its workforce by 7% amidst its continued efforts to bring the $35,000 base Model 3 to market. That said, the company’s fourth-quarter results did echo Musk’s estimates posted in an email to Tesla employees earlier this month, when he noted that Q4 would likely see a profit, though not as notable as the third quarter.
“As we improve the production rate of Model 3, the cost per vehicle continues to decline. It is critical that we continue this trend so that we can keep increasing the affordability of Model 3 while retaining a sustainable level of profitability.” Tesla wrote in its update letter.
Tesla also notes that the recent restructuring actions will reduce the company’s costs by about $400 million annually.
In the fourth quarter, the company saw its free cash flow rise to $910 million, from the $739 million last quarter.
The company’s revenue for the fourth quarter consisted of $6.3B in automotive revenue and $371M from its energy and battery storage business. Automotive revenue saw a slight increase of 3% compared to the previous quarter. The energy and battery storage division, on the other hand, declined by 7% compared with last quarter.
Elon Musk was not joking when he described the Model 3 as a “bet-the-company” vehicle. Just like in the third quarter, it was the Model 3’s sales that ultimately allowed Tesla to record its second consecutive profitable quarter in Q4 — a feat deemed impossible by the company’s critics. Continuing from the momentum it gained in the third quarter, Tesla’s Model 3 broke new records in the fourth quarter, delivering 63,359 units of the electric sedan to customers. Throughout 2018, Tesla delivered a total of 145,846 Model 3, making the vehicle the best-selling luxury car in the United States for the year.
“In Q4, we delivered 63,359 Model 3 vehicles to customers in North America. In January 2019, we started to produce Model 3 vehicles for Europe and China, and the car is now fully certified for sale in these markets. The market opportunity for Model 3 in Europe and China exceeds North America based on the most recent sales of mid-sized premium sedans. Model 3 was designed from the outset for a global market, and shares more than 98% of its parts in common across its regional variants. ”
In the fourth quarter, Model 3 maintained a stable gross margin at over 20%.
Tesla expects to increase Model 3 production volumes at its Fremont factory throughout 2019 until reaching a sustained rate of 7,000 units per week by the end of the year.
“We are planning to continue to produce Model 3 vehicles at maximum production rates throughout 2019. Inclusive of Gigafactory Shanghai, where we are initially aiming for 3,000 Model 3 vehicles per week, our goal is to be able to produce 10,000 vehicles per week on a sustained basis.”
Tesla’s Q4 and Full Year 2018 Update Letter can be accessed here.
More from Elon Musk in the Q&A call
- Tesla to begin Model Y tooling this year
- Tesla veteran CFO Deepak Ahuja is leaving
- More on Tesla’s upcoming pickup truck