Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk fired back at the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, taking umbrage at the newspaper’s insinuation that the company’s recently announced lease price reduction is motivated by “declining” U.S. demand for the company's Model S.
In a message posted to Musk’s Twitter account, the billionaire inventor offered a hint of what to expect in the company’s third- quarter earnings, scheduled to be announced next week. He tweeted that the company saw record worldwide (WW) sales.
Article in @WSJ re Tesla sales is incorrect. September was a record high WW and up 65% year-over-year in North America.
â€” Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2014
Musk took offense to the Wall Street Journal's use of a year-over-year sales estimate provided by WardsAuto. Unlike other automakers, Tesla does not disclose monthly or country-specific sales numbers. WardsAuto, an auto industry analytics and information provider, deduced from its research that Tesla delivered about 26 percent fewer Model S cars in the U.S. in the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period last year, at 10,335 cars compared to 14,017.
The Journal used the information to illustrate Tesla’s struggle to spur U.S. sales. If Model S sedan demand is falling it would be a death knell for a company that produces just one car.
The incentive plan Tesla announced on Monday reduces monthly lease payments by as much as 25 percent, thanks to cost reductions provided by U.S. Bank, one of the company’s financial partners in its lease accounting. The news sent Tesla’s stock soaring over 9 percent in Tuesday’s trading, to $242.84, as it recovered from a three-month low.
Tesla has always said that demand for the Model S is not an issue, but it has long contended that it suffers from supply constraints. Its deliveries are volatile as the company works from its sole Fremont, California, manufacturing plant to fill orders at home and abroad. Deliveries to Norway – currently the company’s largest market outside of the U.S. – shows the company is struggling to fulfill backorders. The company maintains that it has no problems with demands for the Model S.
Musk’s 65 percent figure offers another way to estimate how many cars it sold in the U.S. last month.
WardsAuto estimates Tesla sold 1,700 Model S sedans in September 2013, so a 65 percent increase last month in North America would suggest more than 2,800 cars were delivered, mostly in the U.S. This would likely make last month a sales record.
As Tesla works toward becoming a mass producer of cars, it will face increasing pressure to act like one and adhere to an industry standard of providing investors a monthly update on sales. Until then, the media will have to rely on outside analysis for data, and Elon Musk will have to continue to use his Twitter account to issue corrections on data his publicly traded company doesn’t disclose.