Tesla Model 3 is fifth bestselling car in U.S., production still short of profitability goal


2017 Tesla Model 3, in photo tweeted by Elon Musk on July 9, 2017

2017 Tesla Model 3, in photo tweeted by Elon Musk on July 9, 2017

Tesla announced Tuesday that it delivered 55,843 Model 3s between July and September, confirming reports that the company's mass-market electric is the fifth bestselling car model in the United States.

That slightly exceeded the number of Model 3s Tesla said it produced in the third quarter: 53,239. It indicates that the company still hasn't approached, at any sustained level over a longer time, chief executive Elon Musk's goal of producing 5,000 of the cars per week. Averaged over the quarter, the production number comes out to 4,295 cars per week.

Musk said in a tweet in May that the company would need to sustain production of 5,000 Model 3s per week to make a profit on the critical car and to survive.

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In its statement releasing the production and delivery results, the company noted that Model 3 sales for the quarter were still limited to higher priced versions, which start at $49,000 and can reach $80,000 for fully loaded models.

Including the Model S and Model X, Tesla produced 80,142 vehicles and delivered 83,500.

As usual, Model S and Model X deliveries were split almost evenly. The company said it delivered 14,470 Model S and 13,190 Model X; as with the Model 3, the company delivered a few more of the expensive luxury models than it built.

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The release did not directly address the lots full of Tesla cars that have reportedly filled up around the country, from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Dallas, and Chicago, as The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Musk has said the company has moved from "production hell" with the Model 3 to "delivery hell." When asked, the company has only implied the cars are awaiting shipment.

 The higher delivery than production numbers could indicate that Tesla is beginning to reduce the inventory that may be held on these lots. Musk said in another tweet last month that Tesla has begun building its own trailers to deliver the cars.

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A network of short sellers has been tracking the number of cars on the lots and has speculated that some may be unsold inventory, because Tesla has built more high-priced Model 3s than it has orders for—while customers who have put down deposits for base, $35,000 versions have to wait.

Various news reports in August and September claimed that the Tesla Model 3 has become the fifth best-selling car model in the United States, after the Toyota Camry and Corolla and the Honda Civic and Accord. Since Tesla only reports sales numbers quarterly, these reports were unconfirmed.

Averaged monthly, Tesla's official sales numbers confirm those results, with the Model 3 trailing the Toyota Corolla by about 7,500 cars per month. That also makes the Model 3 by far the bestselling electric car in the U.S., outselling the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt EV by more than 10-to-1.

 
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