Tesla Steps on Gas as Sales Surge (Update 1)

Updated from 9:24 a.m. EDT to include comments from Jefferies analyst in the 11th paragraph.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tesla Motors ( TSLA) doesn't just have more juice left, it's burning rubber, in the proverbial sense.

Though Tesla pre-announced its first quarter March 31, the company managed to sharply beat Wall Street expectations as sales jumped 83% year over year to $562 million, earning 12 cents per share. The company said it produced 400 or more Model S vehicles a week, recognizing 4,900 cars as revenue. In late March, it said it sold more than 4,750 Model S units.

Tesla shares were soaring 23% to $68.71.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla to earn 4 cents a share on $499.55 million in revenue.

One issue that was concerning bears were gross margins, which more than doubled to 17%. Tesla has said in the past its target for 2013 is 25% gross margins, so it appears it is well on its way to that goal. In addition to the strong gross margins, Tesla raised its global deliveries guidance to about 21,000 vehicles for 2013, up from its prior goal of 20,000.

Tesla also received some good news, as Consumer Reports gave the Model S a near perfect score of 99, citing the car's power, handling, and interior.

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Tesla shares have soared this year, aided in part by a huge portion (46%) of the float being held short. Goldman Sachs analyst Patrick Archambault downgraded shares to "neutral," as the risk-reward situation gets smaller. "However, with the shares up 59% since its Mar 19 trough (vs. S&P 500 up 5.4%) we now see only 9% upside to our new 6-month $61 price target on yesterday's close, making risk/reward more evenly balanced," Archambault wrote in his report.

Tesla bears have been loud about the company and the industry's future, but CEO Elon Musk has been able to keep the positive momentum going for his electric car company. From announcements on services (allowing companies to use the Tesla Roadster and upgraded Model S vehicles while their car is being serviced), to financing, to auto-piloted cars in the future, Musk and Tesla have been able to prove the bears wrong.

Tesla is revolutionizing the electric car industry at breakneck speed, and is upping the ante, as customers have shown an affinity for its Model S. Musk has been able to quiet the bears, and show that there is a market for electric cars. That market is gradually growing, and the company is making all the right decisions to expand it.

Jefferies analyst Elain Kwei noted that Tesla has been hitting target after target, and the company is being validated in the marketplace. "At this early stage in the game, management is rightly focused on improving manufacturing efficiency and lowering costs with production of the Model S humming along at 400+ cars/week," Kwei wrote in her note. She believes that consumer awareness of the brand will continue to grow as sales and service networks become more established.

Tesla currently has 34 stores and 41 service locations, with plans to open 15 more stores, including some in Europe and Asia. She rates shares "buy" with a $70 price target, up from $68.

Tesla is firing on all cylinders, and stepping on the proverbial gas. The road has been paved with gold for Tesla, and shares are going from 0 to 60 faster than its own Model S. "The company raised FY2013 delivery guidance in a show of confidence," Kwei wrote. And things are just getting started."

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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