After swinging to a profit in its third quarter of 2018, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) just posted another quarterly profit. The profit was achieved with the help of a triple-digit year-over-year growth rate in automotive revenue and a strong gross margin on its high-volume Model 3. The quarter capped off a pivotal year for the company in which production capacity, deliveries, and revenue soared.

Here's a look at some of the key takeaways from the quarter.

A red Model 3

Model 3. Image source: Tesla.

Tesla's fourth-quarter results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q4 2018

Q4 2017

Change

Vehicle deliveries

90,966

29,862

205%

Revenue

$7.2 billion

$3.3 billion

120%

Earnings per share

$0.78

($4.01)

N/A

Data source: Tesla 2018 fourth-quarter shareholder letter.

Tesla's top line soared 120% year over year in the company's fourth quarter to $7.2 billion. This growth was primarily attributable to the company's ramp-up of Model 3 production and deliveries.

The company's bottom line for the quarter was $139 million, or $0.78 on a per-share basis. This is up significantly from a loss of $4.01 in the year-ago quarter. Non-GAAP earnings per share for the period was $1.93, up from a loss per share of $3.04 in the year-ago quarter.

Highlights

  • Model 3 deliveries during the quarter were 63,359, up from 1,542 in the year-ago quarter and 56,065 in Tesla's third quarter of 2018.
  • Measured by revenue, Model 3 was the best-selling passenger car in the U.S. in both Q3 and Q4.
  • Free cash flow for the quarter was $910 million, up from $881 million in the third quarter of 2018, and from negative free cash flow of $277 million in the year-ago quarter.
  • Tesla's gross margin on its Model 3 was above 20%, or flat compared to the vehicle's gross margin in the company's third quarter.
  • Tesla's cash position increased by $718 million sequentially to $3.7 billion.

Looking ahead

In 2019, Tesla expects to deliver between 360,000 and 400,000 vehicles, up 45% to 65% from deliveries in 2018. Management anticipates the Model 3 driving this growth in deliveries.

"Model 3 production volumes in Fremont should gradually continue to grow throughout 2019 and reach a sustained rate of 7,000 units per week by the end of the year," Tesla said in its fourth-quarter shareholder letter. "We are planning to continue to produce Model 3 vehicles at maximum production rates throughout 2019."

In terms of the company's profitability, Tesla says its "optimistic target is to achieve a very small GAAP net income in Q1," but it expects to be profitable on a GAAP and free-cash-flow basis beyond its first quarter.

Notably, the company is also on track with its plans to pay off debt. "In the second half of 2018, our cash position improved by $1.45 billion despite the scheduled repayment of a $230 million convertible bond in Q4," Tesla said. "We have sufficient cash on hand to comfortably settle in cash our convertible bond that will mature in March 2019."

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.