Tesla chief Elon Musk sent a note to his employees on Saturday that raises some questions about whether or not the company will be GAAP-profitable in Q3-18. According to his note:
“One more day of going super hardcore and victory is ours!! We are very close to profitability and proving the naysayers wrong, but to be certain, we must execute really well tomorrow (Sunday).”
The biggest question is whether or not one day of “executing really well” is actually going to make a difference. Profitability now hinges on whether or not the company made more than it spent over the past three months. Can “one more day of going super hardcore” push them over the line separating red from black?
Forbes estimates that the company will “need to generate an incremental gross margin of 30%” to offset the $621 million operating loss it incurred in the second quarter.
Overall revenue is expected at $6.1 billion, which is reasonable considering the mix of Model 3 variants that were delivered in Q3 – a large portion of the deliveries were the Dual Motor and Model 3 Performance, which are the two most expensive versions.
It might not matter that much to investors if Tesla fails to show a profit on a GAAP basis in Q3. They’ll be very close, per Musk, and that could be reassurance enough that Tesla has finally stopped burning cash and is on the path to being profitable.
Large CapEx requirements will certainly crop up in the future, when Tesla starts expanding its facilities. Gigafactory 1, for example, is still only at about 30% capacity; Fremont definitely needs help on the assembly side of things; and the Chinese Gigafactory 3 is yet to be started, although a significant portion of the funding has already been sourced locally.
That being said, currently deployed resources are still not able to achieve the elusive 6,000 Model 3s a week production mark that was originally planned for the end of August. Once that first milestone has been reached and can be sustained, the next major target will be 10,000 Model 3s a week, but that may only come in Q1 2019, as indicated by Tesla earlier.
The real question, therefore, is not whether Tesla will be GAAP-profitable in Q3: it is whether Tesla can make 6,000 Model cars a week through the end of the fourth quarter. Q3 has witnessed an intense ramp in Model 3 production. Can they round it off with another record-breaking quarter come December 31, 2018, and truly set the tone for massive expansion domestically and globally in 2019?