The stage is yours, Elon.
Usually within the first five days after the quarter ends, Tesla Inc. (TSLA) - Get Report releases a report with sales figures from the previous three months. The report, which only usually discloses units sold, will likely go out sometime around April 3, both Tesla stock expert Anton Wahlman and Nomura Instinet analyst Romit Shah estimate.
While there could be limited commentary, the report is most often Tesla's means of "dangling the carrot" of some optimistic development meant to curry Wall Street's favor, according to Wahlman.
Here's what Tesla followers should watch for in the report.
Can Tesla Meet Its Goals?
The most glaring instance of Tesla's shortcomings is the Model 3. On a number of occasions, Tesla has missed the mark or punted production goals. "In terms of something rolling off an assembly line, it was really a joke," Wahlman says of the Model 3 ramp.
Tesla wrote in an 8-K filing Feb. 8 that it continued to target weekly Model 3 production rates of 2,500 by the end of the first quarter. The company added in February it targeted a weekly Model 3 production rate of 5,000 by the end of the second quarter.
But Tesla also offered this clarifier in the 8-K: "It is important to note that while these are the levels we are focused on hitting and we have plans in place to achieve them, our prior experience on the Model 3 ramp has demonstrated the difficulty of accurately forecasting specific production rates at specific points in time."
Given Tesla's guidance, the most conservative estimate for Model 3 sales in the first quarter is about 18,000, Wahman says. It's worth noting that a number of those sales might still be on trucks and not yet delivered to customers. That means the deliverables stat might be closer to about 14,000, Wahlman explains.
According to FactSet, Wall Street expects Tesla will deliver 38,000 units in the first quarter, 13,800 of which are expected to be Model 3s.
"We continue to acknowledge that there is heightened risk to Tesla's 1Q production guidance of 2,500 units per week exiting March," Shah wrote. "Consequently, we continue to see risk to our 1H18 delivery estimates."
The Bloomberg's Model 3 Production Tracker, based primarily on crowd-sourced information and VIN registrations, estimates Tesla is manufacturing about 1,076 Model 3 units per week as of March 29.
"It is going to be very hard for them to explain any number that is below last quarter," Wahlman says, given that management has hinted at strong and growing demand throughout the start of this year. "If their business is not up in absolute terms, somebody is not going to be happy."
"So far this cat has nine lives," Wahlman thinks. Investors have taken enormous blows in stride, offering Tesla a number of second chances. "They always exaggerate their prospects," Wahlman adds. "The question is how big of a discount do you have to take."
What About Financials?
It's also worth noting Tesla's growing debt problem. Tesla had $7.6 billion in liabilities last year, up 31% from the previous year.
For 2017, Tesla delivered 103,000 units. That means the company has about $73,786 in debt per single car delivered. The same measurement for General Motors Co. (GM) - Get Report is just $16,366 and for Volkswagen (VLKAY) it's $18,495.
Because of that enormous debt pile and a failure to earn any net income, the only way Tesla can remain a competitor in the auto space would be to engage in a debt for equity swap, Wahlman thinks.
"That really takes the knife off the neck of the company," Wahlman says.
Or, as TheStreet's Chris Nolter writes, Tesla taps the debt market for some badly needed cash.
How Much Is the Musk Brand Really Worth?
"The stock is so much tied to the personality of the Elon Musk cult," Wahlman says. It's come to serve as a proxy for the Musk brand, not an indication of the value of ownership in the company.
For example, Tesla's stock shot up about 5% in mid-March when Musk and his brother Kimbal appeared at South by Southwest. The two talked little of Tesla, but their vivid commentary on colonizing Mars and establishing a hyperloop was enough to bolster optimism in the Musk brand -- and consequently, in Tesla shares.
"If he were to divorce himself from the company in any way," Wahlman says, "this thing would collapse like a pancake."
"Elon Musk is an accomplished innovator, inventor and engineer. But, unlike other CEOs, he doesn't first approach things from a business orientation," said Robert Johnson, president and CEO of the American College of Financial Services, via email.
"He is less interested in profit and loss, rather he is interested in transformational innovation," Johnson said. "The world needs transformational innovation, but investors are interested in sustainable business models."
Time will tell if Tesla can deliver on its lofty promises. For now, Wall Street has kept a close eye on Tesla. Shares have fallen 7.3% in the last year.
Before You Go
Despite recent fatal accidents with driverless cars from Tesla and Uber, BlackBerry (BB) - Get Report CEO John Chen tells TheStreet's Executive Editor Brian Sozzi autonomous rides are still the future. Watch below.