Tesla car sales grow more slowly than expected, amplifying concerns


Tesla said Monday that deliveries in the last three months of the year rose 18% from the previous quarter, disappointing Wall Street analysts and adding to pressure on Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, to focus on making cars rather than overhauling Twitter.

Tesla said it delivered 405,000 electric cars from October through December. Wall Street analysts had predicted that Tesla would sell around 420,000 vehicles, up from 343,000 vehicles in the third quarter.

The company sold a total of 1.3 million cars in 2022, a 40% increase from the year before. That was short of the 50% annual growth target Tesla had set for itself.

While the increases were impressive by auto industry standards, Tesla has become the most valuable carmaker in the world by growing at the sizzling rates more commonly associated with Silicon Valley technology companies.

In recent months, Tesla has appeared vulnerable to competition from established carmakers and to rising borrowing rates which made its electric cars more expensive for people taking out loans. Indications that Tesla is mortal have contributed to a 65% decline in Tesla shares in 2022, and led investors to focus more on conventional measures like sales and profits rather than dreams of world domination.

Fourth-quarter deliveries were below the forecasts of analysts, who had already lowered their expectations, and less than Tesla executives had suggested just a few months ago. Tesla said it produced 440,000 cars during the quarter, 34,000 more than it delivered, suggesting that supply chain problems and production woes were not the main explanation for disappointing sales.

Martin Viecha, head of investor relations at Tesla, said on Twitter that the gap between deliveries and production reflected vehicles in transit to customers.
There was no trading in New York on Monday because of the New Year’s holiday. But the numbers will probably reinforce investor fears that Musk is too focused on Twitter, which he acquired in October.

“No way to sugarcoat this,” Gary Black, managing director of the Future Fund, an investment fund, said on Twitter. He predicted that analysts would reduce their estimates of Tesla sales and profits in 2023. Tesla will report 2022 earnings on Jan. 25.

Last week, Musk tried to reassure Tesla employees, telling them not to fixate on the stock price and repeating assertions that the carmaker would become the most valuable company in the world, Reuters reported.



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