Tesla's cheaper electric vehicle the Model 3 struggling

A Tesla Model S electric car

Chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja said during an earnings call in November that cash flow will improve significantly once Tesla ramps up Model 3 output because the company will collect money from customers before paying its suppliers. Musk has long said that production of new Tesla cars occurs like an "S-curve", where initial manufacturing is low and slow; when an inflection point is reached, the production speeds up dramatically.

Tesla ended September with about US$3.5b cash in hand and projected another $1b in capital expenditures during the last three months of the year.

A Tesla Model S vehicle is seen in a showroom in Santa Monica, California, US, January 4, 2018.

Tesla's luxury Model S sedans and Model X SUVs regularly require fixes before they can leave the factory and quality checks have routinely revealed defects in almost all of these models inspected after assembly, Reuters reported in November, citing sources. In the entire fourth quarter of a year ago. The company will likely end the first quarter at a weekly rate of about 2,500 Model 3 vehicles.

Tesla is burning billions in cash as it struggles to achieve its vision of mass-market electric cars powered by Tesla-brand solar roofs through Tesla-brand home storage batteries.

Tesla reported deliveries of 1,550 Model 3s in the final three months of the year, trailing analysts' average estimate for about 2,900 units in a Bloomberg News survey.

In a release on Wednesday afternoon, the company run by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk said it plans to hit a milestone of making 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week by the end of the second quarter of this year.

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Still, Tesla managed to deliver 1,550 Model 3s in the last quarter of the year, after keeping analysts guessing for quite a while.

The Model 3 - which starts at $35,000, or about half the price of its flagship Model S - was met with great enthusiasm when its prototype was first unveiled in early 2016.

Tesla shares gained 45% in 2017.

Tesla said 860 Model 3 vehicles were in transit to customers at the end of the fourth quarter. During the last week of December, the company said, it made 793 Model 3s.

While investors certainly won't look at another Model 3 production delay favorably, they may at the very least find solace in the fact that interest in the Model S and Model X is higher than it's ever been. But Tesla has skipped many incremental steps used by established carmakers when launching new products.

"Tesla is always a quarter away, and now you have to wait six months to get your report card on your investment thesis", Osborne said Wednesday.

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