Tesla’s manufacturing facility in Fremont, California was painfully late to close down, but it has been mostly idled because of the coronavirus,. Either because of or in spite of its late shut down, it still managed to do decently in the first quarter in terms of raw numbers, producing 102,672 cars and shipping 88,400, both improvements year-over-year.
The company announced those numbers Thursday, and its stock price, somewhat down in recent weeks from a meteoric rise to nearly $1,000 per share in February, was buoyed by the news, with the stock trading at about $500 per share as of this writing, up from around $360 earlier in March.
The numbers are good all things considering, but all they really reflect is just how much Tesla has ramped up its manufacturing over the past year, with its Shanghai plant now up and running. (Tesla does not break down the numbers by country.)
A better measure of how much the coronavirus pandemic has affected Tesla will be in its first-quarter earnings, which will be announced later this month. Those numbers probably won’t be so rosy, since while the production numbers were up year-over-year they were down compared to fourth-quarter 2019. And many people stopped buying in the past few weeks.
To get a hint at what earnings might be, just look at the number of deliveries, which was 112,000 in the fourth-quarter, about a quarter more than they were in the first three months of 2020. Some of that drop off is probably attributable to people rushing to buy in 2019 to get in before Tesla’s tax break phases out, but likely not all of it.
This is all the worst possible timing for the launch of the Model Y, which Tesla said it had begun deliveries of in March after starting production started in January. Our own David Tracy claims to have seen one in the flesh but that might be one of the rarest sights on the road for awhile.
And while Tesla said it planned to raise $2 billion in fresh cash in February, no one really knows if the company can survive this, since it also has billions in debt. No one really knows how long this pandemic will last either, but the markets can forever be relied on. In the course of writing this post, Tesla stock fell to $485, with a volume of over 20 million.