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Tesla lags behind 2015 sales target despite strong quarter

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shows off the falcon wing design of the new Model X SUV crossover in its Tuesday debut in Fremont, Calif.
(LiPo Ching / TNS)

Tesla Motors said it delivered a record 11,580 cars to its customers during the third quarter of this year but remains off the pace needed to hit its annual target.

Elon Musk, chief executive of the Palo Alto electric-car maker, told investors it expects to deliver between 50,000 and 55,000 cars this year. Through nine months, it has delivered only 33,117 vehicles.

A giant fourth quarter is unlikely given the automaker’s ongoing trouble bringing its second model to market. Though the company announced the first deliveries of the Model X SUV this week with great fanfare, it put only a half dozen of them in the hands of customers.

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Tesla won’t say when more customers will get the vehicles.

To reach its annual target, Tesla would have to sell its cars during the current quarter at a nearly 50% greater pace than its record third-quarter rate.

A Tesla spokesman declined to comment on the automaker’s delivery plans for the fourth quarter, citing Securities and Exchange Commission rules on how public companies provide guidance to investors.

“This is only one measure of our financial performance and should not be relied on as an indicator of our quarterly financial results, which depend on a variety of factors, including the cost of sales, foreign exchange movements and mix of directly leased vehicles,” the company said.

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Analysts expect Tesla to deliver just a few thousand Model X crossovers this year, ramping up production of the model next year. The vehicle has been delayed for about two years.

The company has told investors it will make about 50,000 cars this year, mostly Model S sedans, with a plan to increase that to 85,000 to 90,000 vehicles next year.

Follow me on Twitter (@LATimesJerry), Facebook and Google+.

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