Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned employees in a recent email the electric vehicle maker shouldn’t be spending irresponsibly in the final weeks of the year to meet a quarter-end delivery rush. The reason seems sensible, even if his call might vex investors.
Musk wants to minimize the cost of fourth-quarter deliveries. He doesn’t see a reason for Tesla (ticker: TSLA) to overspend for a few weeks of any quarter only to see deliveries numbers crash in the first few weeks of the following quarter. It isn’t an optimal cycle for work or spending.
“Looked at over a six month period, we won’t have any extra cars, but we would have spent a lot of extra money and burned ourselves out to accelerate deliveries in the last two weeks of each quarter,” reads the email. “This is [the] right time to start reducing the size of the wave in favor of a steadier and more efficient pace of deliveries.”
It might be the right time because Tesla is going from having two plants producing cars to four plants. More assembly capacity might make it easier to manage the pace of deliveries in coming quarters.
Investors, of course, want big delivery numbers and big earnings. And breaking the pattern of big end-of-quarter deliveries could cause some unwanted stock volatility when fourth-quarter deliveries are reported in the early days of the new year.
Still, Musk is setting expectations early and the change should be a one quarter impact — if the delivery pattern is smoothed out like Musk suggests.
What’s more, investors can’t really assume the change will lead to bad delivery numbers or disappointing earnings. Musk might have decided to send the email because delivery numbers are looking solid. There is just no way to know. Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
It’s also possible that automotive profit margins will improve if Tesla is spending less to deliver vehicles. That will be something to watch for when Tesla reports forth quarter earnings around the end of January 2022.
Wall Street is looking for 266,000 vehicles delivered for the fourth quarter. That would be a record and bring full year 2021 deliveries to just less than 900,000. Tesla delivered about 500,000 vehicles in 2020.
The recent delivery email follows after another email sent by Musk to managers that detailed how he expects managers to react to his comments. In it Musk said managers could request clarification of his written instructions, among other things. The newer email, however, seems clear.
Write to Al Root at [email protected]