As usual, analysts continued to ask Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk about customer reservations for the company's upcoming Model 3 during Tesla's first-quarter earnings call this week. And, as Musk has done every time since the company disclosed it had 373,000 deposit-backed reservations a month and a half after the vehicle was unveiled last year, the CEO refrained from providing any new figures on reservations.
But Musk did provide some interesting context on the trajectory of reservations for the higher-volume, lower-cost vehicle. Reservations are rising every week, he said. Considering that Tesla isn't actively marketing the Model 3, that is quite a feat.
Model 3 reservations
Tesla's total number of Model 3 reservations, which require customers to deposit $1,000 (or a similar value in local currencies in other markets around the world), have remained a mystery since the company said last May that the vehicle had garnered nearly 400,000 reservations. While customer deposits for reserved vehicles are visible on Tesla's balance sheet, it's impossible to decipher what portion of customer deposits are for Model 3. Even watching the trajectory of Tesla's customer deposits hasn't yielded much insight since Tesla has still been converting some of its early Model X reservations for signature models, which required higher deposit amounts.
But it's now at least clear that Tesla isn't having any problems with demand for the vehicle as its launch nears.
Here's what Musk said (via an S&P Capital IQ transcript) when an analyst asked if the CEO could at least share the cumulative reservations for Model 3 in the U.S. Of course, before sharing some context, Musk had to add why he continues to feel updates on Model 3 reservations aren't necessary:
No. Here's the problem. If we do that, then people run off and make all sorts of conclusions based on that, that really have -- that are not predictive of the future. Because there are no -- you can't test drive a Model 3. If you come to [Tesla stores] and you want to buy a Model 3, we -- you might either buy a Model S or X instead. We anti-sell the Model 3. But I mean, that's reservations continue to climb week after week. No advertising, anti-selling, nothing to test drive, still grows every week.
Does it matter?
While it's good to see that Model 3 reservations are on the rise ahead of its July launch, it is worth emphasizing Musk's point about Model 3 reservations being irrelevant. Any updates beyond the company's initial transparency about the surprising level of demand for the vehicle simply wouldn't give investors a good indication of eventual sales.
As long as Tesla is anti-selling Model 3 in its stores in an attempt to get interested customers to order Model S or Model X instead, and as long as the company continues to suppress Model 3 marketing, reservations simply aren't an accurate measure of what demand could look like for the vehicle. The same can be said about test drives. Customer test drives of Model 3 could sway customer interest positively or negatively.
Nevertheless, it's at least good to know that Model 3 reservations are holding up. But investors shouldn't give any speculation about reservations for the highly anticipated vehicle much weight in their analysis. After all, while Model 3 reservations require a deposit, they are refundable. So, customers can cancel their reservations at any time without any repercussions.