Before Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) gets around to its product announcement on Friday, it will need to report financial results for its third quarter. After market close today, investors will get an opportunity to look over the company's progress and hear from management during a live question-and-answer session with analysts.
Investors will undoubtedly be interested in the quarter's financial results, looking for the automaker to report an operating profit and possibly even a rare non-GAAP profit. But given the timing of the quarter, investors may give more weight to commentary from management about progress on bringing its less expensive, higher-volume Model 3 to market next year.
Here's a look at two key questions Tesla CEO Elon Musk may be asked on Wednesday evening, as well as some background on each of these key topics.
Is supplier risk for Model 3 low?
As Tesla's senior director of production Peter Hochholdinger pointed out in a recent interview, the company's greatest challenge as the electric-car maker ramps up production will be the supply chain.
"We have to work on our supply chain, getting our parts on time into the factory, and in the numbers we need," Hochholdinger said when he was asked about Tesla's greatest challenge for bringing Model 3 to market.
Tesla shareholders are well aware of the supply challenges that can negatively impact a vehicle's production ramp. Worse-than-expected Model X deliveries earlier this year as Tesla ramped up production were due to "severe Model X supplier parts shortages," management said in an April update on first-quarter deliveries.
Tesla detailed several different problems driving the supply shortages.
The root causes of the parts shortages were: Tesla's hubris in adding far too much new technology to the Model X in version 1, insufficient supplier capability validation, and Tesla not having broad enough internal capability to manufacture the parts in-house. The parts in question were only half a dozen out of more than 8,000 unique parts, nonetheless missing even one part means a car cannot be delivered.
With these issues still fresh in investors' minds, analysts will hopefully inquire about supplier validation progress. Investors should look for management to have high confidence in the parts needed to ramp up Model 3 production quickly.
Earlier this year, Tesla upped the stakes for Model 3 when the company announced it was doubling down on its production targets for the vehicle after seeing the higher-than-expected demand for the $35,000 electric car. With its new target, Tesla aimed to begin Model 3 deliveries in late 2017 and build 500,000 vehicles (Model S, X, and 3 combined) in 2018 alone. This is up significantly from Tesla's target for about 79,000 deliveries in 2016.
Are Model 3 reservations trending higher?
When Tesla unveiled Model 3 on March 31 and began accepting deposit-backed reservations for the vehicle, it was quickly clear the company had a blockbuster success on its hands. Reservations skyrocketed. In less than 24 hours of its unveiling, Model 3 attracted over 100,000 reservations. And as of the last update on Model 3 reservations, Tesla had garnered 373,000 reservations for the vehicle.
But without an update on Model 3 reservations since May, perhaps management will update investors with the most recent figure for the key metric when it reports third-quarter results.
Tesla's live conference call, which will be available via Tesla's investor relations section of its website, will begin at 2:30 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
For investors interested in watching Tesla's third-quarter financial results, here's a preview of some of the key metrics.