Tesla Motors Inc: Mixed Signals On U.S. Demand

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Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) reported a 40% increase in deliveries in the first nine months of this year, but data indicates that U.S. deliveries may be falling. Records of U.S. registrations of Tesla’s cars indicate they fell by approximately one-third to 9,331, according to market research firm Hedges & Co.

That means there is an approximately 12,490-car difference between Tesla’s total reported deliveries and the number of U.S. vehicle registrations. It also suggests that Tesla shipped most, if not all of those cars overseas, although management’s remarks seem to contradict that idea.

Rising number of Teslas shipped overseas?

Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Kyle Stock reports that there is very little lag time between sale, production and delivery because Tesla makes its cars to order. As a result, registrations in the U.S. would come fairly quickly after delivery is made.

Of course, one wild card that isn’t mentioned is the wait list. Since Tesla management continues to maintain that they can’t keep up with demand, there could be a significant amount of time between sale and delivery, although the gap between delivery and registration in the U.S. should indeed be small.

So assuming a short time between delivery and registration, Stock estimates that nearly 60% of Tesla’s deliveries in the first nine months of the year might have gone to overseas customers.

Tesla’s comments seem to contradict the thesis

Stock noted though that comments made by Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) management in their latest earnings report suggest that all of those missing cars may not actually be going overseas after all. The automaker’s last earnings report was on Nov. 5, and management said “the majority” of their third quarter deliveries went to customers in North America. For next year, they said less than half of the company’s vehicles will be shipped overseas, which again is significantly fewer than what the decline in U.S. registrations suggests.

Throughout the year, many have suggested that U.S. demand for Tesla’s cars has cooled, although CEO Elon Musk has denied that several times, including as recently as in their latest earnings call.

Tesla sees rising registrations in some states

Stock reports that demand for Tesla’s vehicles appears to be shifting away from the states where the company’s cars have been popular and toward states that previously had low demand. For example, sales of Tesla’s vehicles have been low in Indiana and Ohio, although the number of registrations in those states is increasing. Meanwhile registrations in Tesla’s top market, California, declined 43% in the first nine months of this year.

In other words, if demand really isn’t a problem, then interest in Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s vehicles seems to be shifting.

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