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Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) Robust Production Pace Signals Solid Q4

During its Q3 earnings call, Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) said that it expects to deliver 6,000 vehicles in the current quarter. But Barclays PLC (BCS) (BARC) analyst Brian A. Johnson says, looking at the production pace, Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) could easily surpass those estimates. Yesterday, Mr. Johnson visited the company’s manufacturing facility with a group of investors, and met with management. Johnson said in a research note that he is highly optimistic about the company’s near-term performance.

Tesla to blast past estimates

Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) has said in the past that its deliveries were constrained by production. By the end of this year, the company plans to boost production to 600 cars/week, compared to 550 units a week at the end of Q3. Even if we assume 575 units a week through Q4, and factor in the downtime for Christmas holidays, the company is likely to produce 7,000 units. And that’s without overtime. It indicates that the company’s Q4 estimate of slightly less than 6,000 deliveries could be conservative. It rhymes well with Elon Musk’s recent statement that, so far, Q4 sales have been better than expectations.

Furthermore, Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) aims to ramp up its production to 800 cars/week by the end of 2014. Mr. Johnson says the electric carmaker can produce 32K vehicles even if we only assume an average of 700 units a week through 2014. That’s well above Barclays’ delivery estimate of 30K cars. These production figures are obtained on a two-shift basis with minimal overtime. Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) is unlikely to add a third shift anytime soon.

Beyond 800 cars a week, the company will have to add more body assembly and final assembly machinery. At some point, the automaker may also consider outsourcing if it approaches the peak production. Barclays believes the current manufacturing facility can support Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) through the end of this decade. After that, the company would have to open a new facility, maybe in 2019. Mr. Johnson says the next facility would be outside the United States, perhaps in Asia, to meet the international demand.

Battery constraints remain a cause of concern for Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA). The company recently expanded its agreement with Panasonic Corporation OTCMKTS:PCRFY to supply 1.8 billion battery cells over the next four years. It means the deal is good for 50K-60K cars a year. Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) is also in talks with other battery suppliers such as Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (BC94) (00593)0 and LG Chem. But its rigorous qualification process may take at least two years for suppliers to prove if they can meet Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA)’s standards.

Tesla sales strong without much effort

Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) said demand for its cars remains strong without much effort. The company has spent little money on advertisements or discounts. Wait time in the U.S. is 2-4 months, and 3-5 months in Europe. As production rate rises, more sales could be generated through advertisements and expansion of its sales networks. The company expects to deliver its first car to China in March. Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) said it’s still unclear if the recent car fires had any impact on its sales.

Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) shares jumped 2.99% to $143.10 at 12:49 PM EST. Barclays PLC (BCS) (BARC) has a Neutral rating on the stock with a $120 price target.

-By Vikas Shukla

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