How Many Tesla Model S Electric Cars Were Built In 2012? How Many Sold?

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2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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It may be the most eagerly sought piece of information in the plug-in electric car world.

And Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] ain't talking.

The company has a set policy of not disclosing monthly sales figures or production figures until it has to by law.

So it'll be another month or so before we know how many Tesla Model S electric cars it built, and how many it delivered, through December 31 of last year.

In September, Tesla said it expected to deliver 2,700 to 3,225 cars by the end of the year--down from its initial 2012 estimate of 5,000 cars.

Now the prolific members of the unaffiliated Tesla Motors Club forum have crowdsourced data that may shed some light on the production quantity.

A lengthy thread starts off with a post by member BMek, who posts a neat chart of various Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) data points.

Those include "highest VIN assigned in 2012" (that would be 3383, per member Bonforte), the "highest VIN reported on a truck" (3235, per Jat), and "highest VIN physically delivered" (3026, per "b").

Aren't the Intertubez wonderful?

So that leaves us to parse the numbers, assuming that Tesla--like most automakers--assigns its VINs sequentially.

From this, we take away that Tesla delivered roughly 3,000 Model S electric luxury sport sedans by Dec 31, and produced perhaps 3,350--since VINs may have been assigned to cars not yet completed.

That puts them right in the middle of their revised September projection, which--if our guess is accurate--should make investors happy.

Like our estimate of Fisker Karma production last August, this is guesswork necessitated by the company's stonewalling.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

Enlarge Photo

Tesla representatives have said they don't feel the need to release such information, because their buyers don't care and their investors are satisfied with quarterly financial reports.

We're not sure we agree that buyers are disinterested--since a whole lot of Model S reservation holders have asked us that very question--but, hey, we're not selling cars, Tesla is.

Meanwhile, we'll find out the true numbers sometime in February, when Tesla Motors files its fourth-quarter and year-end financial results with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


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Comments (27)
  1. So 3000 units delivered seems pretty good.

    What I like most is that there doesn't seem to be any news stories about terrible quality issues, the F word, or recalls related to Tesla Model S. And that really is good news. Hope they keep it that well.

    Well done Tesla.

  2. Quite the opposite, really. Their cars have largely received rave reviews. And I agree, 3000 is not so far off from their 5000 goal, considering that they like to make sure quality is where it needs to be before delivery. Fisker should have followed the same track.

  3. Rats! You have exposed my entire investing strategy! While most investors brood over quarterly reports and balance sheets, I root around in forum post gravel at the bottom of the Internet. I just hope all those people shorting Tesla aren't reading this, it will ruin their day.

  4. Looks like Model S generated its first $300 million of revenue for Tesla. Not bad for a car that was developed at a modest budget of less than $700 million and should well be capable of generating an extra $7 billion of revenue over its lifetime (assuming 100K units @ $70k a pop), if the long list of reservation holders is any indication. Sounds like good business to me.

  5. The interwebs are not a series of tubes...

  6. All I know is that I've started to see them around town. In both Denver and Santa Fe.

  7. Last week for nothing more than a cheap laugh, I Googled "Tesla Model S" articles from 2008 only, just so I could read the comments.
    "It'll never work", "Sad to say it's gonna fail" were the general theme of the comments. Four years later it makes the announcement that around 3000 Model S' are being driven around quite a delicious slice of news.

  8. Quite a few here in Seattle. One even in the Costco parking lot.

  9. I've not seen one "in the wild" around these parts yet, but the Natick Mall Tesla store only opened about a month ago; and I went in to see one in person. Some friends and family are interested...

  10. I have seen two different ones "in the wild" here on the streets of Cambridge.

  11. I think it's fine that Tesla doesn't report their production numbers. If they did you know some people may take the information and use it to produce negative reports bashing Tesla. Most of us know that Tesla has done the best job out of all the start-ups at creating a new all electric brand. But there are some people who would look at the numbers and compare Tesla to mainstream manufacturers and then falsely claim that Tesla is a failure. So far leaving Tesla to do things their own way has yielded great cars and a growing business, so lets let them keep at it.

  12. To whom ever gave me the -1, I was thinking more about Fox News or something like it when I wrote this comment.

  13. @CDspeed: you are absolutely right: production numbers would be taken out of context. I can imagine the Fox News headlines right now: "Taxdollar funded car shows abysmal sales" without mentioning that production is still ramping up the waiting list is endless.

    About downrating: it shouldn't even be a feature of any self respecting blog. People should have the choice to either give a +1 so they don't have to repeat the argument or give a polite response as to why they disagree. Down rating is like kicking a blind man in the dark: no way to defend oneself against an anonymous attack. It can easily be abused to turn forums into snake pits rather than places of discussion.

  14. I certainly agree with you on the down rating Chris. I've seen a lot -1s on comments given by people who use it to express bias. If you leave a positive comment on some sites about a particular brand a fan of a rival brand will leave you a -1 just to put your comment down. I think -1s should require a reply, so you have a chance to set the record straight. It isn't a ratings system when +1 or -1 could mean anything, and where -1s are more often used disrespect a persons right to their own opinion.

  15. Also the system is prone to abuse. One just can tell from the patterns that some commenters on ABG use multiple accounts to astroturf their own comments and multiple downrate those they don't like. Like I said: its the sort of instrument that can turn forums into snakepits of manipulation. Just make a point of uprating comments that were downrated for no apparent good reason.

  16. I think you're correct, but don't worry, most thoughtful people don't do that and what can one do about those who act in that way? As for publishing the sales data, I still believe Tesla should, but it's also not a big deal to me and I also understnd the other side, of course.

    The thing is, people who would react to bad news are also likely to react to the basic refusal to share any news. Notice the 9% drop in share vakue in one day when the production forecast was reduced. Some haters of Tesla/EVs crowed, supporters attacked every mild criticism of Tesla, etc...

    It's sad, we live in such a negative world. It's always good to see your comments here, though, welcome back. We may occasionally disagree but I enjoy the honest feedback, too.

  17. Yeah, it's a negative world isn't it...lots of snakes out there...They aren't easy to spot though. They try to blend in with the environment. Only when provoked they show their true nature.

  18. That is a pretty slow in ramp up.

    Telsa got the engineering team to design the car right. Now they need the production team to ramp up the production. That is usually where the major automakers shine...

    It is tough to be in the ultra competitive business such as cars. Your product has to stand up to the picky demand of the consumers...

  19. Even major automakers take months to dial in brand new factory. But the real issue is that the Model S uses very few existing parts. The vast majority of it is entirely new.

    In contrast, major automakers are manufacturing cars where even a completely redesigned model (or a new brand for that matter) typically has 60-70% of its parts in common with other vehicles. Even the all new Volt was built on the same platform as the Cruze, and both cars had a large number of parts in common with legacy platforms.

    Because of this newness, Tesla has had a ton of issues with getting their suppliers up to speed and synchronizing parts delivery with production. Up to now virtually every car delivered has had some minor missing parts to be added later.

  20. Great comment, Thomas. Many of Tesla's so-called problems derive from these types of issues. I worked with Tesla for a while and we eventually declined to continue because the quantities didn't mkake business sense, as did 95% of the supply base, to be honest. Tesla had to work much harder to get good suppliers as a result, which occasionally leads to production delays.

    Considering the initial difficulties faced by Tesla, they've done a wonderful job. Yes, problems still exist, but credit is due and I wish only that the volumes allowed me to continue working with Tesla.

  21. So that story is a lot like not getting into Apple when it was $6 per share I guess. Of course it's only a story.

  22. I agree. It takes time for the parts to show up and production line to ramp up. But this is the ONLY product that Tesla has in production. You would think that Tesla Production and Planning team has already thought of those potential issues and addressing them.

    In my engineering world, before we release a brand new product with tens of millions of parts (many of them are highly advanced and very low in production quantity), we make sure we have them ready months before we reach our ship date. At our ship date, that is when the "normal" production starts.

    Of course, if a supplier suddenly failed to deliver their promises, then that is a different issue. But I have yet to see any news reflecting that.

  23. Also, due to Tesla's superior design, it is also a much "simpler" car relative to the ICE cars that it is stacking against. I would think that would "favor" Tesla in its ramp out.

    I do agree that smaller projected volume might turn away suppliers from working with Tesla. Even when they do, Tesla might NOT be the VIP on their customer list...

    Just another example on how tough to start a car company even when you got the customer base and great design.

  24. Tesla did have some supplier issues--for instance, Elon's blog on Oct 3rd, 2012 mentioned that one of their suppliers had a plant flood in the Philippines. But no doubt some of it was their own doing (high standards coupled with low volumes that made it hard to interest some suppliers). Cash flow had to be taken into account as well. I'm not sure Tesla could have afforded to stack parts for all 5k vehicles it planned to build in 2012 even if they had wanted to. As it turned out, Tesla learned things as the car came together, and the car evolved slightly. Some parts ordered at the beginning of the run might not have fit towards the end.

  25. As to your estimates, TMC is the go to source for information from Tesla. But if you read their delivery threads, its clear that Tesla does not deliver cars in sequence for numerous reasons. We are still seeing cars delivered every day with VIN's in the low to mid 2000's range.

    When you count VIN's that likely weren't delivered, along with VIN's that were assigned to store cars, media cars and whatnot, it seems more likely that Tesla was closer to the low end of their stated goal.

    Though it also depends on how Tesla decides to account for deliveries. Some cars are taking 2+ weeks for delivery, so it helps if Tesla is counting cars as "delivered" when they are shipped.

    Personally, I am more concerned with their weekly production rate

  26. "assuming that Tesla--like most automakers--assigns its VINs sequentially." Not sure if Tesla does. A friend of mine got his later VIN Model S signature before our other friend's earlier VIN number. Don't know if means Tesla is doing ad hoc or shipping out according to which components it has at the time.

  27. That 3000 of the most awesome and fantastic as well as sexy EV’s ever to grace the street. The Tesla Model S is so good that its even better than a gasoline car costing as much. All the other EV's made by the other automakers look like goofy glorified econoboxes that are lacking in driving range and performance in comparison to this stylish sport sedan that just happens to be an electric.

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