With Tesla stock price down 15% in the last few weeks, amid a roaring market, it appears doubts about Elon Musk's omnipotence are creeping in once again… and rightly so. Despite the hype surrounding hundreds of thousands of pre-orders due to start production in H2 2017, buried deep within the company's most recent 10-K filing is an admission that there is still no Model 3 beta prototype.
The fanfare surrounding the pre-order-fest for the Tesla Model 3 continues to support the stock in many analyst's (and investor's minds). However, with production due to begin in H2 2017 (just 4 months away) and delivery in 2018, doubts are starting to appear, judging by the stock's demise since earnings…
And Car and Driver's Anton Wahlman – who appears to be one of the few who actualy read Tesla's 10-K filing – may have found the reason for the doubts…
From the filing:
“We expect that the next performance milestone to be achieved will be the successful completion of the Model 3 Beta Prototype, which would be achieved upon the determination by our Board of Directors that an eligible prototype has been completed. Candidates for such prototype are among the vehicles that we are currently building as part of our ongoing testing of our Model 3 vehicle design and manufacturing processes.”
In other words, Wahlman points out, Tesla has not “completed” a Model 3 “beta prototype” as of, well, either of these two dates: December 31, 2016 (the period that the SEC filing covers), or March 1, 2017 (the date on which the document was filed). Pick your poison.
We know that around mid-February 2017, Tesla is said to have started building the next stage of Model 3 prototypes. It is from this batch that they appear to be creating the first “beta prototype.”
What does this mean for production? In theory, there is nothing that prevents Tesla from delivering what a normal car company would call a prototype test vehicle of some sort and simply declare victory on its original timeline. This is what Tesla did for the Model S in June 2012 and for the Model X in September 2015. After those events, it took at least another approximately three months—arguably a fair bit more—for proper volume production to take root.
That is to say that, no matter how immature, Tesla could indeed deliver a Model 3 in July 2017 and declare victory. However, that is not to be confused with what a normal car company would call its start of sales to the general public.
Basically, Car and Driver's Wahlman says, it comes down this:
If it’s prudent to start production of an all-new car three to six months after the advent of a “beta prototype,” then why don’t all automakers do this? Why do they take approximately two years for the preproduction testing stages, if only three to six months are necessary?
We will find out in the second half of this year.
More smoke and solar panel mirrors?
Still withcash burn at a billion dollars, there's probably nothing to worry about…