Business, Economics and Jobs

Tesla Motors shares plunge after Model S electric car sales disappoint


Tesla Model S wins Motor Trend car of the year, despite presidential contender Mitt Romney saying Tesla was a losing company during the campaign.


Justin Sullivan

Sometimes fine just isn’t good enough.

Shares in luxury electric car maker Tesla plunged more than 13 percent on Wednesday, triggering a "circuit breaker" to slow trade of the stock after third-quarter sales fell short of expectations.

The California-based company sold 5,500 of its $70,000-plus Model S vehicles during the three months leading up to Sept. 30, which was more than the 5,000 chief executive Elon Musk had forecast, but far fewer than the 7,000 units some analysts had anticipated.

“People have gotten used to being happily surprised by Tesla, so when that doesn’t happen there’s disappointment,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book, an automotive pricing and data company in California. 

“They’re doing fine but some see fine as a letdown given how well they did earlier this year.”

Tesla shares fell 12 percent in after-hours trading on Tuesday following the release of the results, which showed its net loss narrowed to $38 million, or 32 cents per share, from a loss of $110 million, or $1.05 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue ballooned to $431 million from $50 million a year-ago.

Tesla plans to deliver about 6,000 Model S cars this quarter. Adjusted profit is expected to be about the same as the third quarter.

Musk told analysts that the company had struggled to keep up with demand due to a lack of battery cells needed to power its cars. It is ramping up production at its factory in the Netherlands and is asking Panasonic, a supplier of lithium-ion battery cells, to boost output. 

Shares were last trading at $153.27, down 13.31 percent on Tuesday’s close.