Unlike its automotive peers, which report vehicle deliveries every month, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) announces its vehicle deliveries only four times a year. The electric-car maker reports its vehicle deliveries within three calendar days of each quarter's end. And it's coming up on that time again. Tesla will be reporting its second-quarter vehicle deliveries anytime between the first and third of July.

With Tesla stock trading about 41% higher in the past three months, will the company live up to the Street's high expectations?

Model S and Model X vehicles outside Tesla's factory.

Image source: author.

What to expect

For the first half of 2017, Tesla said it expected a big year-over-year jump in vehicle deliveries. Management guided for a 61% to 71% increase in Model S and Model X deliveries during the first half of the year compared with the first half of 2016. To accomplish this goal, Tesla would need to deliver 47,000 to 50,000 vehicles in Q1 and Q2 combined.

After its first quarter, it was clear that Tesla was on track to meet this guidance. The company delivered just over 25,000 vehicles during Q1. The deliveries represented 69% year-over-year growth compared with deliveries in the first quarter of 2016, leaving 22,000 to 25,000 units for Tesla to deliver in its second quarter for Tesla to hit its guidance range. With its first-quarter deliveries behind it, Tesla said its outlook for the first half of the year remained unchanged. 

One interesting aspect of Tesla's second-quarter vehicle sales will be the electric-car maker's model-specific deliveries. While Model S sales growth has essentially halted, failing to grow beyond levels achieved in the fourth quarter of 2015, it's unclear whether Model X sales can continue to rise every quarter.

Tesla's sharp growth in vehicle deliveries in Q1 could be mostly attributed to higher Model X deliveries. During the quarter, Tesla delivered about 13,450 Model S units and 11,550 Model X units. While Model S sales were up about 8% year over year, Model X sales nearly quadrupled over the year-ago quarter.

But now that Model X sales are beginning to rival Model S sales, the SUV's sales growth is slowing. Model X sequential sales growth in the first quarter of 2017 and the fourth quarter of 2016 was 9% and 21%, respectively. These rates are down drastically from the sequential growth in the third and second quarter of 2016 of 89% and 93%, respectively.

Bar chart showing Model X deliveries by quarter.

Data source: Tesla's quarterly SEC filings and delivery updates. Chart by author.

Investors should look to see if Model X sales continued to rise during Q2.

Are Model 3 pre-orders cannibalizing Model S sales?

One wild card going into Tesla's first-quarter deliveries report is how the Model 3's upcoming launch is affecting demand for the Model S and Model X. During its second quarter, Tesla has expressed some concern about consumer perception that its Model 3 is a more affordable and better version of its older vehicles. While it is more affordable, Tesla's more expensive Model S and Model X are still the electric-car company's best vehicles.

To better communicate the differences of its Model 3 and its Model S, Tesla released a comparison sheet, which highlighted differences in the vehicles' sizes, acceleration, range, cargo space, and more.

Tesla's obvious concern about consumer perception that the Model 3 is better than the Model S suggests that management might be seeing lower-than-expected demand for the Model S ahead of Tesla's Model 3 launch in July. Of course, Tesla's decision to maintain its guidance for 47,000 to 50,000 vehicles in the first half of the year after delivering 25,000 units in Q1 already bakes in a possible sequential decrease in vehicle deliveries. But could the Model 3 be negatively affecting sales of its more expensive vehicles more than Tesla anticipated?

We'll find out soon.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.