Tesla said late yesterday that it delivered roughly 24,500 electric cars during the third quarter, including 15,800 Model S sedans and 8,700 Model X utility vehicles.

That total slightly exceeds estimates by at least half of the financial analysts who had projected deliveries from the Silicon Valley maker before their release.

The third-quarter total is considerably higher than the 14,402 cars Tesla delivered in the second quarter of this year.

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Tesla Motors says it is holding its guidance of 50,000 total deliveries for July through December 2016, a projection it had previously released.

In its press release, the company suggests the preliminary Q3 total should be considered "slightly conservative," because it only counts as a car as delivered if "it [has been] transferred to the customer and all paperwork is correct."

The company had about 5,500 cars in transit to customers at the end of the quarter, it said, which won't be counted as deliveries until the current quarter.

Tesla factory, Fremont, California

Tesla factory, Fremont, California

Third-quarter deliveries to paying customers were outstripped by actual production of Tesla electric cars.

Tesla said it built 25,185 vehicles during the last quarter, up from 18,345 in Q2.

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During the first six months of this year, Tesla delivered 29,190 cars.

That's less than half the projected full-year number of 80,000 to 90,000 it announced at its 2015 earnings call in February.

2016 Tesla Model X

2016 Tesla Model X

Deliveries during the first half of the year were slowed due to the ramp-up of production for the Model X, Tesla said at the time.

The company also said that it underestimated the impact of that vehicle's complex design on production rates.

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In the last quarter, Tesla delivered more Model X utility vehicles than it had between the delivery of the first vehicle in September 2015 and the end of the second quarter.

Tesla expects fourth-quarter deliveries to be "at, or slightly above" Q3, despite the last quarter being shorter, and anticipated difficulties with delivering cars during the holiday season.

Scene from Tesla Model X production video

Scene from Tesla Model X production video

Matching its 50,000-unit guidance for the second half of 2016 would bring Tesla's annual total to 80,000 deliveries.

That's right on the low end of the 80,000 to 90,000-unit full-year projection.

Tesla has said it plans to deliver as many as 400,000 vehicles by 2018, two years ahead of its prior target of 2020 for that volume.

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The bulk of its volume at that point will be its planned $35,000 Model 3 sedan.

Production of that car isn't expected to start until the end of next year.

As many analysts have suggested, that will require Herculean efforts from Tesla to ramp things up quickly to achieve that goal.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article suggested that third-quarter deliveries to paying customers outstripped the quarter's production of Tesla electric cars. The actual case is the reverse. We regret the error.


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