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Tesla delivers more cars than ever before, but its stock price dives

Tesla Motors Inc. said it delivered 17,400 vehicles in the fourth quarter, setting a new company record by putting out a flurry of Model S sedans and some Model X sport utility vehicles, but the stock market wasn’t impressed.

Shares of the Palo Alto-based automaker sank $16.60, or nearly 7%, to 223.41 on Monday.

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Tesla’s previous record was 11,580 deliveries, which it posted in last year's third quarter. In all of 2015, Tesla delivered 50,580 vehicles.

In October, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk told investors that the automaker expected to deliver between 50,000 and 55,000 vehicles in 2015. The year’s total of 50,580 is on the low side of that estimate, which probably drove the reaction on Wall Street.

But this level of disappointment is a bit “nitpicky,” said Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

“The prediction that it made for itself was so narrow that just coming in on the low end of that narrow prediction should not be a warning sign,” he said. “Given the capitalization of Tesla Motors, whether it’s [50,000] or 52,000 that are delivered in a particular year, it’s almost immaterial.”

Another analyst said that the lower production numbers shouldn’t be so surprising, given Tesla’s history, but that the market reaction might also stem from trepidation about the debut of the smaller and less-expensive Model 3, which has a target release date of 2017.

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“Tesla, at this point, is notorious for slow timelines and delivery,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com.

Tesla said Sunday that it delivered 17,192 Model S cars last quarter, up 48% from the company's previous quarterly Model S record and up 75% from the same period a year earlier.

The company said it also delivered 208 Model X vehicles. The falcon-winged sport utility vehicle was revealed in September at an extravagant public unveiling, and Tesla faced criticism for delivering only six of the vehicles by the end of that month — one of which went to Musk.

Tesla said it produced 507 of the SUVs in the fourth quarter and would deliver most of those in the first quarter.

“Model X deliveries are in line with the very early stages of our Model X production ramp as we prioritize quality above all else,” Tesla said in a statement Sunday.

The company said its daily production rate during the last week of the year was on track to produce about 238 Model X SUVs per week.

Also in recent days, a Tesla car in Norway went up in flames while being charged, according to the Associated Press.

The Model S caught fire at a charging station in the town of Gjerstad on Friday, AP reported. The cause of the blaze is being investigated.

For more business news, follow @smasunaga.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

3:03 p.m.: This story was updated with stock prices, analysis, comments by Jack Nerad and Jessica Caldwell and additional information throughout.

This story was originally published at 8:28 a.m.

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