Tesla posts a $48.9-million loss despite jump in revenue

Tesla Motors Inc., bolstered by sales of battery packs for electric vehicles, said quarterly revenue more than doubled. But losses grew sharply as costs of developing an electric vehicle escalated.

The Palo Alto firm reported revenue of $49 million in the first quarter, more than double the $20.8 million a year earlier, as it delivered a record number of battery packs and chargers for Daimler’s electric Smart Fortwo and Toyota’s electric RAV4 that is due out next year and for which Tesla is helping to develop a powertrain.

But profitability remained elusive for the company as it prepared for production on the Model S sedan, its first mass-market electric vehicle.

Tesla posted a $48.9-million loss compared with a $29.5-million loss a year earlier. Tesla, the only public automaker in California, filed for an initial public offering last June.

Earnings were released after the market closed Wednesday. The stock rose nearly 4% to $27.75 in after-hours trading.


Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a conference call with investors that he was optimistic about the company’s prospects. It opened a new store in April at San Jose’s Santana Row retail center. It has hired more than 130 new employees — mostly in manufacturing, research and development.

More than 1,650 Roadsters — the company’s $100,000 electric sports car — have been delivered internationally and are expected to sell out by the end of the year.

The Model S is undergoing testing for safety, noise, weather and handling, Musk said. Robots and automation equipment will be installed this year at the company’s Fremont, Calif., factory, where site preparation and equipment testing has already begun.

Musk said 4,600 customers have reserved a Model S since the end of April, requiring a minimum $5,000 deposit. A version of the car with a 300-mile battery will start delivery in mid-2012.

“The car is great to drive,” he said. “I try to drive the latest prototype as much as possible.”

Tesla has also said that it plans to make a small sport-utility vehicle called the Model X, aimed for delivery in 2014.