Tesla Inc. (TSLA) - Get Report is one of the most debated names in the stock market. Bulls are betting that co-founder, chairman and CEO Elon Musk is set to change the world. Bears consider him and his company a sham.
That debate will continue to rage on for quite some time. However, the company and its leader stay in the news.
The latest spectacle came over the weekend, as Musk caused a big-time headache for his PR team. He called one of the British divers participating in the Thailand cave rescue of 12 boys "pedo guy" (as in pedophile) before deleting the tweet and apologizing a few days later. This and other events have kept investors and industry observers from focusing on the things that really matter for Tesla. For instance, its cars.
In the last week of June, Tesla produced just over 5,000 Model 3 sedans, allowing the automaker to hit its goal of producing 5,000 units by the end of the second quarter.
It's safe to question whether Tesla has been able to maintain that figure over the past few weeks. However, I think conservative estimates can model that the young automaker will likely produce at least 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week for the the rest of the year, assuming one averages out its second-half production.
If Tesla can do so, it could launch the company from small-time startup -- a pesky mosquito to companies like General Motors Co. (GM) - Get Report , Ford Motor Co. (F) - Get Report and Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) - Get Report -- to one automakers better pay attention to.
Through the first half of 2018, Tesla has produced 38,344 Model 3 sedans. However, it has only delivered about 70% of those, or 26,622. Keep in mind that more than 13% of that figure was produced in the last week of the quarter. So its percent of delivery vs. what Tesla has produced shouldn't be taken as a critique.
Through the first half of 2018, Toyota and Honda Motor Company (HMC) - Get Report have dominated in American sedan sales, claiming the top four spots, before Nissan steps in at No. 5 and 6. The Hyundai Elantra steps in at No. 7, before Ford and GM round out the rest of the top 10.
Taking a closer look at the top performers, we have the Toyota Camry selling about 179,000 units so far this year. That's up roughly 1% from the ~177,000 it sold in in the first half of 2017.
The Honda Civic is next, selling ~176K units so far in 2018 vs. 175.7K in the first half of 2017. Finally, there's the Toyota Corolla, which has sold ~161.5K units so far this year, down 8.5% year-over-year after it sold 176.5K units in the first half of 2017.
So where does the Model 3 fit in all of this?
Say Tesla is able to average 5,000 Model 3s through the rest of the year. That will put it on pace for roughly 130,000 total units in the second half of 2018. Should the top-selling sedans duplicate their first-half performance, that would land Tesla in the fifth spot, just behind the Honda Accord.
However, Musk talked about Tesla being able to produce 6,000 Model 3s a week by the end August. If we say Tesla sells 6,000 Model 3s a week -- and this would assume it increases production into year-end, thanks to it not producing that amount in July and August -- we get 156,000 total units. That would put it just outside of the top three, again based on the first half's performance.
As of the end of June, Tesla had more than 400,000 net reservations remaining on the Model 3. Although it's worth mentioning that we don't know how many of those reservations are for the base Model 3, which is not being produced yet.
The numbers obviously aren't perfect. We don't know how many Corolla's or Camry's Toyota will sell or whether Honda will have a big push over the next six months. We also don't know that Tesla can successfully produce 5,000 or more Model 3s per week for six consecutive months. But the point is simple: Tesla has gone from producing a few thousand cars a month to possibly being in the top five for sedan sales.
The feat seems even more impressive when considering Tesla's higher average selling prices thanks to the automaker only selling premium versions of the Model 3 at the moment. In that respect, it's smashing the sales volumes for lineups like the Mercedes C-Class or the BMW 3 Series.
Tesla has plenty of issues, but this is one feat everyone should keep in mind.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.