Tesla Motors Inc. reported a dramatically higher loss in the first quarter as it spends heavily to launch new models, jump into the energy storage business and build a giant battery factory near Reno.
The Palo Alto electric car company said it lost $154 million in the first quarter compared with a loss of $49.8 million in the same period a year earlier.
“It was a mixed report,” said Efraim Levy, auto industry analyst at S&P Capital IQ. “Sales were a little better than expected. They are a little bit behind on the delivery schedule, and they had an operating loss.”
Tesla’s results were also dragged down from $22 million in mostly unrealized losses from revaluation of its foreign currency holdings because of the strong dollar.
The company offered a rosy outlook for the second quarter of this year. It expects to produce about 12,500 vehicles, roughly a 12% gain from the previous quarter, and is on track to deliver 55,000 Model S and Model X vehicles.
The Model S is its luxury sedan and flagship model. It plans to start deliveries of the Model X electric sport utility vehicle late in the third quarter.
Selling government-awarded environmental credits continues to be a steady source of revenue for the automaker. It sold another $66 million worth of credits during the first quarter, including $51 million of special California zero-emission vehicle credits.
Other automakers purchase the credits to meet the state’s environmental regulations. Tesla’s total take from selling the California and other credits now amounts to more than $500 million.
Tesla's total loss was lower under a different accounting rubric preferred by the company and some analysts. Using so-called non-GAAP accounting, Tesla saw a loss of $45.2 million compared with a profit of $17 million in the same period a year earlier. Those figures include deferred profits on leased cars and exclude certain non-cash expenses, such as stock-based compensation.