NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Tesla beat Wall Street estimates for annual vehicle deliveries and met the low-end of its own target, sending shares to a record high in a vindication for chief executive Elon Musk after a few turbulent years.
Boosted by demand for its mass-produced Model 3 sedans as overseas sales pick up, Tesla on Friday (Jan 3) said it delivered 112,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter, including 92,550 Model 3s and 19,450 Model S/X SUVs, which was above expectations of 104,960 vehicles, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
The Silicon Valley carmaker delivered approximately 367,500 vehicles during all of 2019, just meeting the low end of its target to deliver 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles in 2019.
Tesla shares were up as much as 5.5 per cent at US$454, touching a record high.
The stock has had a strong run in recent months after posting a rare profit in the latest quarter and news of China ramp up. With a market valuation of more than US$80 billion (S$100 billion), Tesla is far outstripping those of traditional carmakers General Motors and Ford Motor.
The delivery results defy sceptics of Musk, whose mercurial behaviour over the last two years came under close scrutiny from federal regulators and shareholders of Tesla.
Musk, who has more than 30 million Twitter followers, has a history of firing off tweets that resulted in an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and a defamation trial against him.
The Tesla CEO settled the SEC complaint for US$20 million in 2018 and a Los Angeles jury cleared Musk in the defamation case in December.
"Elon has Tesla executing right on track," said Roth Capital Partners analyst Craig Irwin.
Tesla also provided an update on its Shanghai factory, which has started churning out Model 3 cars. It said the plant demonstrated a production run-rate capability of more than 3,000 units per week.
The run-rate shows that the factory appears to be ramping faster than expected, Baird Equity Research analyst Ben Kallo said. "Shanghai deliveries should be the next catalyst to drive volume growth."
The US$2-billion factory, Tesla's first car manufacturing site outside the United States, is the centrepiece of its ambitions to boost sales in the world's biggest auto market and avoid higher import tariffs imposed on US-made cars.
A company representative on Thursday said that Tesla will deliver its first China-made Model 3 sedans to the public on Jan 7.
The Model 3 is Tesla's most affordable car, with lower-range versions available starting at US$35,000.
Analysts in the past have questioned how rapidly Tesla's vehicle sales will grow as government subsidies for electric vehicle purchases dwindle in the United States, China and other markets. Some analysts consider those subsidies the biggest driver for Tesla purchases.
Traditional automakers largely relying on fuel-powered vehicles on Friday reported a decline in fourth-quarter US sales and saw their shares tumble as a widening conflict with Iran pushed oil prices more than US$2 a barrel on Friday.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Friday said it saw a 2 per cent fall in US auto sales, while GM reported its fourth-quarter US deliveries were down more than 6 per cent.
"The recently escalating geopolitical uncertainties driving oil prices higher are likely to create a tailwind for TSLA shares," Canaccord Genuity analyst Jed Dorsheimer said.