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Top Global EV Automaker? Telsa Electrical Vehicle Production Surges During Early 2018

The Tesla bears have all sorts of reasons to cry today.

Not only did Tesla manage to produce four times the number of revolutionary Model 3 vehicles it made during the fourth quarter of 2017, it also hit multiple additional milestones even as CEO Elon Musk derided unfounded rumors that the company was in need of an immediate cash infusion.

Model 3 Surge

Tesla bet its future on the Model 3. And after a nine month period of production chaos and uncertainty, it appears that the bet is starting to pay off.

Late in December of 2017, after struggling through a hellish maze of bottle-necks, Model 3 production rates briefly hit above 1,000 vehicles per week. At year start, this rate slackened somewhat only to reassert by early February. During late February, the Model 3 line was shut down briefly for improvements. Meanwhile, the battery-mass-producing Gigafactory in Nevada (at 11 GWh per year and growing) had opened up a second line for Model 3 batteries after new equipment was shipped in from another Tesla factory in Germany.

With a number of bottle-necks addressed, by mid-March Model 3 production was again surging — hitting around 1,400 per week. A final big late push by the end of the month resulted in weekly production in the range of 2020.

This impressive effort by Tesla generated nearly 10,000 Model 3s for Q1 of 2018. Of this number, about 8,200 are thought to have been sold.

Record First Quarter

With Model 3 selling at nearly as high a rate as Model S and Model X, Tesla appears to have rounded out the first quarter of 2018 with a record 29,980 vehicles delivered. A number that is likely to top 30,000 once all sales are counted. Tesla produced far more — hitting 40 percent growth and 34,494 all-electric vehicles made.

The clean energy company also announced that Model S and X orders were at an all time record high. A slight lag in S and X production during Q4 of 2017, therefore, was the likely cause of slightly lower S/X sales during Q1 of 2018. However, it appears that Tesla is rapidly catching up as it reports that 4060 of these cars were in transit to customers at the start of Q2 even as another 2040 Model 3s were also en route.

Top Selling EV Automaker Globally

Given approximately 30,000 cars sold and 34,500 produced in Q1 of 2018, it appears that Tesla is again in the running for the best-selling maker of electrical vehicles the world over. For it looks like other top contenders — BYD (China) and BMW (Germany) — will sell in the mid 20,000s during the first three months of this year. At the very least, current tracking indicates that Tesla will likely be in the top 3 with BAIC and Nissan trailing behind.

(Top global EV sellers list for January and February from InsideEVs puts Tesla at 5th globally. But a surge in sales during March likely pushed Tesla into the top spot for Q1. Image source: InsideEVs.)

Tesla Model 3 is also likely to hit within the top 6 EVs sold the world over for Q1. Nissan Leaf and the BAIC EC series will likely claim the top two spots. However, the story going into Q 2 is likely to be considerably changed as Tesla tests new limits.

Model 3 Production Likely to Hit 17,000 to 27,000 During Q2

In the U.S., the Model 3 is the uncontested top selling EV already. And its lead is likely to continue to widen.

Tesla notes that it will continue 2,000 Model 3 per week production during the first week of April. If past trends are any reliable indicator, this rate is likely to slacken somewhat as Tesla pauses for breath by mid-April. It doesn’t look like the 3’s production will drop significantly lower than the 1,200 per week mark going forward into April and May, however.

And as the quarter continues, Tesla will also likely attempt another period of surge production aimed at hitting the 5,000 vehicle per week mark. Such a surge will likely occur in June. But we might be treated to a mini surge or two by early to mid May as Tesla tests the 2,000 to 2,500 vehicle per week (or higher) mark again within the next five to six weeks. We expect weekly production during Q2 to average between slightly more than 1,400 per week to 2,250 per week with the number of Model 3s produced approximately doubling to tripling when compared to Q1.

The result is that Tesla appears to be on track to sell between 39,000 and 49,000 EVs (including Model S and Model X) during the second quarter. A surge in sales that will almost certainly propel it to the world’s top EV manufacturer even as Model 3 begins to hit breakout production velocity.

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Signs that the Model 3 Flood Gates are Starting to Open Abound

Tesla’s mission ‘to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy’ appears to be surging forward after hitting a couple of road blocks this fall.

According to news reports, Tesla Model 3 distribution centers are now filling up with units of the highly desirable electrical vehicle. According to Elektrek, hundreds of Model 3s have been spotted at Freemont’s distribution Center. And a new distribution center in Los Angeles with a lot capable of holding 400 vehicles appears to also be full. Meanwhile, smaller centers and sales rooms around the country are reporting an influx of Model 3s.

(Sales lots for the Model 3 are starting to fill — indicating that higher production volumes have been reached)

This news comes after Tesla recently opened orders for a first batch of Tesla reservation holders. It also follows Panasonic’s announcement that battery production bottlenecks at Tesla’s Gigafactory had cleared.

According to reports from Inside EVs, a total of 712 Model 3s had sold through November. But with hundreds of Model 3s now flooding distribution centers and show-rooms, the rate of production appears to have started to take off. How much will be unclear until Tesla releases annual figures by early January of 2018. But it appears likely that Tesla is now producing north of 300 Model 3s per week — with this source pointing toward upward of 1,000 vehicles per week.

Exact numbers are all speculation and conjecture at this point. But clear evidence of swelling inventory is a sign that the steepening ramp of the S curve is upon us.

Tesla presently boasts approximately 500,000 reservation holders for its Model 3 electrical vehicle (EV). Many of these customers are willing to wait a year or more to receive a car. This is an unprecedented level of demand. But with the Model 3 featuring first in class acceleration, handling, EV range, recharging capability, and access to Tesla upgrades and widespread faster charging infrastructure, it’s little wonder that the car has so many admirers.

If Tesla is managing to ramp production as planned, the car-maker is likely to see record vehicle sales during December even as it climbs toward 250,000 to 300,000 approximate sales during 2018 (or up to triple projected 2017 sales). And due to the fact that the Model 3 eclipses the capabilities and features of tens of thousands of luxury and sport fossil fuel vehicles in the 30,000 to 50,000 dollar price range, it’s possible that Model 3 demand will continue to surge as the car becomes more widely available.

(Global EV sales are projected to hit above 1 million during 2017. With the Model 3 and other highly desirable, more affordable electrical vehicles hitting the market in 2018, total global sales are likely to challenge the 2 million mark. Image source: EVvolumes.)

Tesla’s leap forward coordinate with larger global EV adoption couldn’t come sooner. Harms from climate change are rapidly advancing. But the increased efficiency provided by electrical drive trains and their ability to be mated directly to renewable energy systems like wind and solar provide a major opportunity to cut harmful carbon emissions. So the faster global EV production ramps, the more competition that interest in Tesla’s leading-edge EVs spurs, the better it is for us all.

Tesla Model 3 Production More than Doubled During November

Hands down, no other electrical vehicle company possesses the charging infrastructure, the high quality electrical vehicles, and the production infrastructure that’s now in Tesla’s hands. This system synergy provides unparalleled value to Tesla customers. Enabling them to use and improve their electrical vehicles with far greater ease than offerings from other automakers.

So when one reads about rising sales of the Chevy Bolt or how Volkswagen plans to sell 100,000 EVs per year by 2020 (Tesla sells that many now, in 2017), one should realize that both of these companies, though presently producing or planning to produce high-quality EVs, are behind in a race to catch Tesla. The Bolt, which sells for around 36,000 dollars hasn’t even yet caught up with the Tesla Model S — which costs more than twice as much. And Volkswagen is still waiting for its signature EV brands to be built over the next two years.

(Tesla deposits are an indicator of customer interest. Model 3 has been a primary driver of deposit increases since openings for reservations began in Q1 of 2016. Image source: Bloomberg.)

Struggles by Tesla to hit a rapid Model 3 production ramp, however, have caused some to question whether the revolutionary EV manufacturer and renewable energy company would hold on to that lead. Whether the delay would allow others to start to catch up. And of course some of this conjecture was puffed up by traditional Tesla bears and opponents — grasping at any bad news to spin against a rising green energy giant.

To be very clear, Tesla is at least 1-2 years ahead of the competition. So a month or two or three delay for the Model 3 production ramp — a vehicle which more than half a million customers have reserved — is not going to knock it out of its present leadership status. Longer term problems — lasting for more than 6 months — would be more telling, especially if reservation holders began to drift away. But Tesla’s present advantage is so significant at this time that the production fail on the Model 3 would have to be pretty monumental to provide any serious opening for the competition.

(Model 3 starting to break out of the pack. The vehicle is now the #21 best selling EV for all of 2017 and probably #11-12 for November. If the production ramp continues, the car will easily break the top 10 in December and probably become the best-selling EV in the U.S. by January or February. Image source: Inside EVs.)

To this point, according to reports from Inside EVs, Tesla produced and sold an additional 345 Model 3s during the month of November. This number is up 200 from the estimated 145 produced and sold during October. In total, Inside EVs estimates that 712 Model 3s had been sold by end of November.

Number sold is not number produced. So if Inside EVs estimates are correct, then Tesla has likely built over 800 Model 3s so far. And present trends make it likely that Tesla will complete between 1300 and 3000 of these revolutionary new vehicles by year-end. If this is ultimately the case, then the Model 3 production ramp is 2-3 months behind schedule. Disappointing to the hundreds of thousands waiting to get their hands on a Model 3, for sure. But not a crisis set to break the back of Tesla — as some have implied.

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