6 Takeaways from TSLA’s Q4 2017 earnings report

The best way to understand and digest yesterday’s TSLA Q4 2017 earnings report is stop reading all the articles in the media about it, and just go directly to the source.  Oftentimes, reporters and journalists miss the most important parts of the report, and people who rely on them are left with shallow headlines that don’t promote understanding but just promote the reporter’s biased view on the company.  It’s tough to be a great investor if one relies on headlines from the media.  Rather, if you go directly to the source and actually read company’s earning reports and actually listen to their conference calls (or at least the transcripts) you’ll be ahead of 99% retail investors out there.

So before we go on here’s two prerequisite source materials that are a must-read:
1. TSLA Q4 Earnings Shareholder Letter
2. TSLA Q4 Earnings conference call transcript

As long as you read those two links, you’ll be better off than 99% of the people out there who are relying on bait-click headlines and shallow reporting.

As for my thoughts on the earnings report, here’s my take.

1. Overall, I think the earnings report was a positive.  I’d give it a 7 out of 10.  The reason being is because anything not very negative is actual positive to Tesla at this point.  They are at a crucial juncture of ramping Model 3 and the absence of bad news means things are going well.

2. Cash balance going into Q1 2018 was $3.4 billion, which is very healthy and rather surprising.  They also raised $500M+ is a lease securitization deal in Q1.  So it looks like Tesla is not in need of an urgent capital raise.  However, I wouldn’t rule out a capital raise in the next several months as Tesla might opt to increase their cash cushion.

3. The Model 3 ramp is slow.  While on their shareholder letter, Tesla said they’re still “targeting” 2500/week by end of Q2 and 5000/week by end of Q3, in the conference call it seemed like those goals might be difficult to reach.  Elon shared that the need to ship battery module production equipment from Germany that will arrive some time in March, and that equipment will be necessary to go to 2000-2500 cars/week.  Since it might take a few weeks to set up the equipment, I’m not expecting Tesla to hit their goal of 2500 cars/week by end of Q1.  Rather, I think Q1 average production rate will likely be around 1000 cars/week.  In order to hit 5000 cars/week, Elon said they need to work on “parts conveyance” which is automation to move parts in the factory line.  It’s unclear if when this will be complete.

Update: On Feb 9 after market close, Tesla released a Form 8-k (Tesla claims automated lines from Germany not required to reach 2,500 week Model 3 production goal in Q1 2018)

4. Elon re-affirmed that the long-term competitive advantage of Tesla will be their factories and not their cars.  This is a key point to understand about Tesla.  By massively improving manufacturing efficiencies via engineering, AI, 3d printing, and robots, Tesla will be able to drive down costs faster than any other auto manufacturer, thus giving it a long-term sustained competitive advantage.

5. Elon mentioned they might be able to sell 1 million Model Y cars/year, and they can do it at half the capital expenditure cost than what they spent per car for the Model X.

6. Jon McNeil, VP of sales and service, has left the company and has joined Lyft as their COO.

Overall, Tesla’s Q4 earnings showed that systems are all go for Tesla to continue their path of ruthless innovation and ridiculous ambition.



Yesterday SpaceX made history again with a successful launch of the Falcon Heavy, which is basically three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together.mmIf you haven’t seen the launch, it’s a must-watch and I’ve included it at the end of this post.  Here’s what SpaceX had to say about the launch and what it means:

[Falcon Heavy is] the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lb)—a mass greater than a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel–Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.

Roughly two years ago SpaceX made history with the first landing of a orbital’s first stage on land.  This was the key piece to SpaceX’s ultimate mission to make humans a multi-planetary species.  What yesterday’s successful launch of Falcon Heavy showed was that SpaceX is on an inevitable path to send people to Mars.  Now more than ever it’s clear that SpaceX is on a roll and that momentum will lead to amazing space ventures that many thought was only for the imagination.

What makes SpaceX special is the combination of a ridiculously ambitious goal (making humans multi-planetary) and the practical means and methods to achieve that goal.  SpaceX believes that if they harness the intelligence of the brightest engineers and commit to ruthless iteration and constant improvement, then the end result will be achieving what many people think is impossible.

In the same way, Tesla shares the SpaceX ethos.  Tesla has set a ridiculously ambitious goal of transitioning the world to sustainable transport and energy, and they’ve committed to making that happen by bringing together the best engineers they can find and working ruthless toward constant iteration and improvement.

Sometimes this constant iteration and improvement isn’t linear because there are step changes with new projects.  For example, while engineers are constantly working and iterating improvements, SpaceX experienced step changes in technology with Falcon 1, Falcon 9, ability to land and reuse boosters, and now with Falcon Heavy.

In a similar way, Tesla has experienced massive step changes with the original Roadster, the Model S, and now the Model 3.

With Tesla it appears that every 5 years or so they are able to achieve a true step change in technology and product.  And the Model 3 is so far Tesla’s greatest achievement, yet it is only the beginning.  In another 5 years, Tesla is bound to have made massive progress in manufacturing, battery technology, design, and other fields; and all of that put together will allow them to make another product that they just weren’t able to do right now.

I think in 5 years or so, Tesla will be able to release a generation 4 vehicle that addresses an even larger market than the Model 3.  The Gen4 vehicle will be cheaper than the Model S and will target the economy class of vehicles.  It simply will be a vehicle that is more affordable than the Model 3 and is the best economy car, ever.

Later today Tesla will announce their Q4 earnings.  And while Tesla will give important updates as to how the Model 3 production ramp is going, how much cash balance they have, and their goals for this year, in many ways I think what’s more important is that Tesla has already made a stellar car in the Model 3 and they are trekking toward their next goals and are not staying still.  Sure, Tesla has their work cut out for them in terms of ramping Model 3 production.  But in my opinion this is a solved problem.  In other words, ramping production has been done by every major auto manufacturer on the planet, and Tesla will be able to do it as well.  It might take a bit longer than expected, but they’ll get there.

But for some reason many investors and analysts are so short-term focused, so all eyes will be on what Tesla will be doing over the next quarter or two.

The bigger picture is Tesla is marching on toward their ridiculously ambitious goals.  The bulk of their engineering team has long moved on to other projects like the Model Y, Tesla Semi, and new Roadster.  And after those projects, they will move on to the Tesla pickup truck and to other mind-blowing vehicles and projects.

What the Falcon Heavy launched yesterday showed us is a glimpse into the power of the ethos behind SpaceX, and also Tesla.  And it’s no coincidence they’re run by the same person, Elon.




In many ways you can say the original iPhone that debuted in 2007 was a major hit.  But there’s another side to the story.  Most people dismissed the iPhone as an overpriced gadget and couldn’t imagine themselves ever owning one.

I remember standing in line on the first day to get the original iPhone.  It reminded me of standing in line to reserve the Tesla Model 3 almost 2 years ago.  The excitement in the air was similar.  Everybody standing in line knew they were wanting to get their hands on something revolutionary and spectacular.  There was a hope and faith in the air.

After standing in line for several hours and finally holding the original iPhone, it was a magical moment.  It was even better than what Steve Jobs had promised.  The touch interface, the scrolling, the built-in apps… everything was just amazing.

However, when I showed my iPhone to my friends almost all of them dismissed it as an overpriced toy.  I was quite shocked.

I remember I was at a friend’s party shortly after getting my iPhone in 2007 and I was showing it to some people, but there was little interest in it.  There must have been 30 people at the party and not a single person wanted to play with it.  I remember playing a game, Taboo, with folks and using my iPhone as the timer.  It was awesome, at least to me, but nobody cared.

Several days later I was eating dinner at a restaurant with a few friends and I had my iPhone out on the table, and one friend told me to put it away because she was embarrassed by it because it “costed so much” and she didn’t understand why anybody would want one.  She said she was happy with her Blackberry and had no interest in ever owning an iPhone.

I could go on with stories of disinterested people with the iPhone back in 2007.  The reality was while there was a small minority of people who were infatuated with the iPhone and understood its significance, the vast majority of people completely dismissed it.

Steve Balmer, the then Microsoft CEO, remarked, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”

He was just so sure the iPhone was a fluke, a gadget, a toy.  In retrospect, the original iPhone was truly a historical and momentous moment, one that would forever change how people consumed information.

In similar ways, the vast majority of people are completely missing out on the transformation and historical moment of the Tesla Model 3.  On the surface, it’s easy to judge it as a “gadget” or “toy”, and something that only Tesla fanatics are in to.

However, what people are missing is they don’t understand the essence of the Model 3, just like the didn’t understand the essence of the original iPhone.

Show Full Article