Earnings Results: Tesla’s first-quarter sales rise more than 70%

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Tesla Inc. stock fell late Monday after the Silicon Valley electric-car maker reported first-quarter profit above expectations, but sales missed the mark slightly.

Tesla
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+1.21%

said it earned $438 million, or 39 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $16 million, or 2 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted for one-time items, the company earned 93 cents in the first quarter.

Sales rose 74% to $10.39 billion, from $5.99 billion a year ago. Tesla relied on “substantial growth” in vehicle sales, it said in a letter to shareholders. Asking prices for its vehicles fell 13% year-on-year, but margins rose and costs “decreased even faster,” Tesla said.

Analysts polled by FactSet had expected the company to report adjusted earnings of 75 cents a share on sales of $10.48 billion.

Sales of the revamped Model S luxury sedan will start “very shortly,” the company said, and the rate of production of the Model Y, Tesla’s compact SUV, continues to improve at the company’s Shanghai factory. Tesla’s new factories in Berlin and in Texas “are making progress,” the company said.

“There is a lot to be excited about in 2021,” Tesla said. The Model 3 was the best-selling premium sedan in the world, and the Model Y can become “the best-selling vehicle of any kind globally,” the company said.

Selling some of the bitcoin
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the company had amassed earlier this year also had a “positive impact” around $101 million, Tesla said.

The company kept its sales outlook intact, saying that it plans to grow its manufacturing capacity “as quickly as possible,” and over “a multi-year horizon, we expect to achieve 50% average annual growth in vehicle deliveries. In some years we may grow faster, which we expect to be the case in 2021.”

That rate of growth will depend on equipment capacity, operational efficiency and capacity, and stability of the supply chain, it said.

It was a seventh straight quarter of profit for Tesla. The company has scheduled a conference call with analysts for 5:30 p.m. Eastern. The call will be webcast.

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Tesla earlier this month reported first-quarter deliveries that zoomed past analyst expectations, but the stock has been volatile in recent sessions.

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A recent fatal crash involving a Tesla vehicle in Texas where authorities believe no one was at the wheel has drawn renewed scrutiny to Autopilot, Tesla’s suite of advanced driver-assistance systems.

The company said in the letter it continues to work on its “full self driving” beta suite to be “soon” more widely available in the U.S.

Autopilot has been criticized in some quarters for giving some drivers a false sense of security, and for its name implying self-driving abilities well beyond the suite’s current capabilities.

U.S. safety regulators are investigating several accidents involving Tesla vehicles in which Autopilot may have been involved. Tesla makes it clear that drivers engaging Autopilot have to remain alert and prepared to take over at any time.

The stock has gained 410% in the past 12 months, compared with gains around 48% for the S&P 500 index
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in the same period.

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