Tesla Inc. (TSLA) shares slipped lower Thursday after founder and CEO Elon Musk added to the group's recent headline woes by warning customers that they may see "longer response times" from the carmaker amid what he said was a surge in North American volumes.
Musk shared the concern via his official Twitter account last night after announcing earlier this week that the carmaker was reducing the choice of colors from some of its models in an effort to "simplify" production. The stock was further pressured by multiple media reports that another senior executive, vice president of worldwide finance and operations Justin McAnear, is set to leave the company. Earlier this week, chief accounting officer, Dave Morton resigned after only a month in the job.
Tesla shares were marked 0.52% lower in early Thursday trading and changing hands at $289.69.00 each, a move that stills leave the stock some $19 higher than last week's multi-month low but still $130 shy of Musk's now-abandoned target to take the company private at $420 per share.
Tesla said it surpassed its own Model 3 production target of 5,000 vehicles per week in July, with Musk declaring that the group would boost that output to 6,000 a week by the end of August. Bloomberg's closely-tracked Model 3 production monitor, however, suggests the current pace is about 3,500 a week at its Fremont, California manufacturing facility.
Tesla shares have fallen around 16.3% since the start of the third quarter, and plunged to the lowest level in five months Friday following news that a key short-seller is suing the clean-energy carmaker for allegedly misleading investors over plans to take the company private and a radio interview that raised further questions over the Musk's judgement.
Analysts are expecting the group to report a third quarter earnings per share loss of 42 cents next month before rebounding sharply to 74 cents a share in the final three months of the year. However, with a cash burn rate of $739 million last quarter, any chance of meeting profitability estimates will rest on the group's ability to push Model 3 production closer to its 6,000 target in order to generate faster end sales and deeper quarterly cash flows.
"It took 15 years to execute on our initial goal to produce an affordable, long-range electric vehicle that can also be highly profitable," Musk and Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja said in a letter to shareholders earlier this summer. "In the second half of 2018, we expect, for the first time in our history, to become both sustainably profitable and cash flow positive."