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Hold the Phone -- Tesla Didn't Make a Profit Selling Cars

What you cannot take away from the stock climb is that Tesla is now all of a sudden adding shareholder value by selling electric cars.

What Telsa has proven itself very capable of manufacturing are methods of government support. I think you will soon agree.

Here's a simple and rounded examination of the earnings release (for the three months ended March 31):

Revenue: $561.8 million

Cost of Revenue: $465.5 million

Gross Profit: $96.3 million

So far, so good. Tesla made $96 million gross profit. But shareholders can't bank a gross profit. Other expenses need to be accounted for:

Research and development costs: $54.9 million

Administration, selling, and general costs: $47 million.

After accounting for $101.9 million from expenses related to operating the business, there isn't any profit left. In fact, from operations, Tesla lost money again this quarter. The loss amounted to $5.6 million. The losses are even worse after removing government subsidies.

TSLA Gross Profit Quarterly Chart TSLA Gross Profit Quarterly data by YCharts

As an automobile manufacturer, Telsa isn't profitable yet, and the company stated that it doesn't expect to report a profit in the upcoming earnings release. Investors may receive a surprise beat, but otherwise they will have to remain patient.

So why did Tesla report a paper profit? Because of accounting rules and nonsustainable government money.

Items included:

California zero emission credits (see this Bloomberg article): $68 million

Federal/other credits: $17.1 million

We can go on, but I covered much of it in my previously mentioned article last week. Besides, the zero emission credits more than offset the profit. If you haven't read yet, the California Zero Emission Vehicle Program credits are a result of a mind-numbing California law that results in other automobile manufacturers, including Ford (F) and GM (GM), paying Tesla so they can sell vehicles in California. The payments come from somewhere, and not from GM or Ford. The payments made by GM and Ford come from increased prices paid by consumers.

TSLA Revenue Quarterly Chart TSLA Revenue Quarterly data by YCharts

About half of the cars that Tesla makes are sold in California, and each one results in uber-government subsidies.
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