Hours after unveiling plans for a nationwide network of "Superchargers," Tesla Motors (TSLA) quietly cut its revenue forecast for 2012 and admitted that production of the all-electric Model S sedan is "slower than we had earlier anticipated."
Tesla had previously said that it would make 5,000 cars by the end of the year, but the Palo Alto electric car maker said Tuesday it is "four to five weeks behind our previously announced Model S delivery goals" due to delays by suppliers and the need to continue to train employees. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company says it now expects to deliver between 200 and 225 Model S vehicles to customers in the third quarter and between 2,500 and 3,000 Model S vehicles in the fourth quarter.
Tesla spins the delays, in part, by citing the company's high standards for quality controls, and CEO Elon Musk is a legendary perfectionist. But Tesla only recognizes revenue when it delivers cars to paying customers, and the stock slid more than 9 percent in midmorning trading.
As of Sept. 23, Tesla has produced a total of 255 Model S cars, and has delivered 132 to customers. It produced 77 cars in the week ending Sept. 23 but needs to ramp up to 400 cars a week before the end of 2012.
"To increase the rate of production of Model S, we have taken a number of actions, including working with suppliers to help improve quality and timely delivery of parts, adding automation and second shifts in certain manufacturing areas, increasing training of our manufacturing staff to improve manufacturing processes, and making changes to personnel in our quality control department," Tesla reported in the filing. "We anticipate, however, that manufacturing and supplier issues will continue to arise and need to be addressed in a timely manner."
The company said it now expects full-year revenue in the range of $400 million to $440 million, down from its prior outlook of $560 million to $600 million. Third-quarter revenue will be in the range of $44 million to $46 million, reflecting the lower deliveries of cars.
On Monday evening, Tesla announced the launch of its "Supercharger" network at a high-profile event at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, near Los Angeles. The goal is to allow Model S drivers to be able to quickly charge their vehicles while they are driving between cities.
Six Supercharger stations are already installed in California, including at the Gilroy Premium Outlets off Highway 101. The initial locations will make it easier to take road trips between Los Angeles and San Francisco; the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe; and Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Tesla's lowered revenue forecast comes on the heels of Toyota's announcement this week that it has largely jettisoned plans for widespread sales of the eQu, an all-electric minicar.
Some industry analysts questioned the timing of the news. Tesla's big Supercharger event was Monday evening; the regulatory filings detailing the Model S delays came a few hours later.
"Nice quiet announcement after the big Supercharger splash," said Mike Omotoso, an auto industry analyst with LMC Automotive in Michigan. "Along with Toyota, it looks like they're finally getting realistic about the EV market."
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