2017 Tesla Model S 100D [photo: David Noland, owner]
The quarterly delivery and production figures from Silicon Valley electric-car maker Tesla are eagerly followed when they emerge a few days after the end of a quarter.
On Monday, Tesla said it had delivered 26,150 electric cars, its best quarterly total yet and 4.5 percent higher than the third quarter of 2016, its previous best quarter.
Of those, 14,065 were the Model S hatchback sedan, 11,865 were the Model X crossover utility, and a mere 220 were the new and lower-priced Model 3 sedan.
It appears that CEO Elon Musk's prediction earlier this year of "six months of production hell" for the Model 3 has proven accurate, as the Model 3 number didn't reach Musk's earlier estimates for the month.
He had suggested in a tweet two months ago that, "Production grows exponentially, so Aug should be 100 cars and Sept above 1,500."
The Monday release says that 260 Model 3 cars were produced, with the bulk of them presumably representing the 220 Model 3 deliveries for September.
Frame from delivery video for
The company took steps to reassure shareholders and followers that the Model 3 remained essentially on track despite what it termed "production bottlenecks":
Although the vast majority of manufacturing subsystems at both our California car plant and our Nevada Gigafactory are able to operate at high rate, a handful have taken longer to activate than expected.
It is important to emphasize that there are no fundamental issues with the Model 3 production or supply chain. We understand what needs to be fixed and we are confident of addressing the manufacturing bottleneck issues in the near-term.
Total company production for the third quarter was 25,336 vehicles, the release said, though it did not break out the 25,076 other vehicles by model.
Tesla also listed 4,820 vehicles in transit, up from the 3,500 quoted for the second quarter. Those vehicle will count as sales during the fourth quarter.
Specifications for the core Model S and Model X cars have changed multiple times in the past six months as the company adds versions, removes battery options, and generally works to simply production of the cars that still bring in the vast majority of its sales revenue.
2017 Tesla Model X
Despite the Model 3 shortfall, the release contained some good news for Tesla fans:
We had previously indicated that second half Model S and X deliveries would likely exceed first half deliveries of 47,077, but we now expect to exceed that by several thousand vehicles.
In total, we expect to deliver about 100,000 Model S and X vehicles in 2017, which would be a 31-percent increase over 2016.
Tesla notes that final quarterly figures could vary slightly, by up to 0.5 percent, calling its accounting "conservative" and subject to final adjustments.
The company now has three months to attain its promised production rate of 5,000 electric cars a week by the end of the year.
It seems reasonable to suggest many people, both Tesla supporters and electric-car cynics, will focus on that number just after the New Year turns.