Forget Tesla’s Loss; Listen for Third-Quarter Delivery Forecast

Tesla Motors Inc. reporting a loss in the second quarter is pretty much a given.

The youngest and smallest publicly traded U.S. automaker is projected to lose about 60 cents a share, excluding certain items, and $1.11 a share on a net basis. Still, investors remain bullish -- pushing up the stock 2.4 percent on Tuesday to $266.28. In Wednesday’s earnings report after the close of New York trading and conference call at 5:30 they’ll be focused on listen for:

THIRD-QUARTER FORECAST: Tesla needs to sell about 50 percent more autos in the second half than it did in the first to meet this year’s goal of 55,000. So what the Palo Alto, California-based company says about the third quarter is crucial to whether the implied fourth-quarter forecast seems plausible. A swing of just 1,000 vehicles -- 13,000 versus 14,000 -- determines whether Tesla needs to accelerate deliveries by 70 percent or 50 percent in the final three months of the year. (Like last year’s fourth quarter, this one may also have winter weather as well as holidays that could slow deliveries.)

MODEL X: Tesla is expected to end the year with a big increase in production and sales because it’s doubling its lineup with the long-awaited addition of the Model X sport utility vehicle. It was originally planned to go on sale in 2014, so investors -- like would-be customers -- are very eager for the larger model that’s expected to be more popular with women. A reveal date for the production version of the SUV and plans for the start of actual deliveries may provide relief or even spur further excitement, if that’s possible.

POWERWALL: Another new product slated for this summer is Tesla’s Powerwall home-charging unit. Initial interest was, in Musk’s words, “crazy off the hook,” and soon it will be time to find out how many intenders turn into installers. Tesla has said its stationary storage business could grow to scale much faster than its automotive unit, but none have been delivered yet. A solid forecast for the start of home installations could be a boost; a delay into the fall could be a disappointment.

CHINA: Musk said last quarter that sales in China are picking up, and investors will want to know if that’s continuing. The world’s largest auto market has the potential to become Tesla’s biggest customer base, too, but concerns about charging and mistakes by the sales staff stymied the company’s entry. Now the market is slowing a bit and China’s SUV-loving consumers won’t get the Model X until the first half of next year. But in the long run, it’s still going to be very important.

GIGAFACTORY: Tesla’s progress building the world’s largest battery factory near Reno, Nevada, is pivotal for the company’s automotive and stationary-storage plans. But since Musk just announced a grand opening party for next April, investors may already be as assured as they can be that construction is on track.

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