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Is Tesla quietly sitting on 3,000 cars?

Thu, 13 Nov 2014

Tesla's 2014 third quarter financial report mixed some positive news with gloomy messages. On one hand, the electric carmaker posted its best quarter ever in terms of deliveries, including its best single day with 907 EVs delivered. The company also announced expanded production to get even more vehicles out the door by the end of 2015. However, the Model X got delayed yet again and higher prices in Europe were mulled. Dousing the results with a bit more cold water, a Merrill Lynch investor letter claims there's more to be pessimistic about the business than meets the eye.

The Daily Kanban, quoting research meant for Merrill Lynch clients, claims that Tesla had "approximately 3K vehicles stocked in inventory or in transit" at the end of the Q3. That's a fairly large number considering that the company reports selling 7,785 units for the whole quarter. The statement is also surprising because the automaker has a reputation for keeping excess supply low, and there are allegedly waiting lists for Model S sedans. CEO Elon Musk maintains that the automaker has a problem being able to keep up with high demand, as well.

According to Daily Kanban, the letter further states, "China is proving to be more challenging for Tesla to penetrate than expected." The automaker does not break out sales by region in its Q3 financials to check this assertion, however, the company does report the recently opened store in Shenzhen is one of its top-grossing stores worldwide and that there are now 23 Supercharger locations in 10 Chinese cities.

Merrill Lynch is hardly the first company to challenge the consistently positive assertions made by Musk. In late October, the stock price bounced all over the place after a claim of falling sales by The Wall Street Journal prior to the Q3 announcement. Another analyst believed the company might need around $6 billion to get all of its plans accomplished by 2025.

By Chris Bruce

See also: Tesla lowers Model S lease price, adds 3-month 'happiness guarantee', Toyota sells off Tesla shares, too, The Price Is Right plays One Away with Tesla Model S.