Shares of Tesla (TSLA 4.72%) jumped almost 8% in the last week of September following news of a leaked email from CEO Elon Musk that revealed the company may set new records for vehicle deliveries.
The leaked email from Musk to Tesla employees said, in part, that the company may reach 100,000 vehicles delivered in the third quarter.
Some analysts predicted that a delivery report of at least 95,000 for the third quarter would be positive news for Tesla, and that investors would react by buying shares if the company reached that benchmark. If Tesla were indeed able to exceed 100,000 vehicles delivered for its third quarter -- which it's expected to report at its third-quarter earnings call this week -- more good times could be ahead for the company's stock.
Deliveries don't tell the whole story
In July, Tesla's stock price increased more than 15% after Musk released the company's deliveries report for the second quarter. In that report, Tesla revealed it achieved "record deliveries of 95,356 vehicles and record production of 87,048 vehicles, surpassing our previous quarterly records of ~91,000 deliveries and ~86,600 units produced in Q4 of 2018."
Model 3 deliveries reached an all-time high in the second quarter, at 77,634, making it the "best-selling premium vehicle in the U.S., outselling all of its gas-powered equivalents combined," according to Musk's summary of the Q2 earnings.
Naturally, investors responded positively by indicating Tesla was a solid buy. Those celebrations didn't last very long, though, as the stock plummeted almost 14% overnight from July 24 to July 25 following the company's second-quarter report.
The reason for the drop was Tesla was way off in earnings per share estimates, thanks in large part to a "weaker-than-expected automotive gross margin," according to The Street. That number was 18.9% for the quarter ended June 30, after it had been above 20% for the quarters ended March 31, 2019, and June 30, 2018.
Investors' response to the second-quarter earnings call was quite simple: Deliveries are nice, but there is much more that goes into Tesla's valuation.
How Tesla's stock has performed since
Tesla's $228.82 stock price on July 25 eventually dropped to $211.40 on Aug. 23. Both numbers were still well above the year-to-date low for the company, which was $178.97 back on June 3.
Since the Aug. 23 low, the stock has been on a relatively consistent incline. At the market's close on Sept. 30, Tesla's stock price sat at $240.87, a hefty 35% higher than the year's low, but 31% lower than the year's peak of $347.26 on Jan. 11.
Fluctuating prices are nothing really new for Tesla. It reached as high as $383.45 on June 23, 2017, spiking up and down quickly in response to deliveries, earnings calls and expectations.
Overall, Tesla hasn't performed very well this year. June's low was the lowest point it had reached since the beginning of 2017. Plus, after saying it wouldn't need to raise more money, the company raised $2.7 billion in convertible debt and equity this year, according to Quartz.
Net losses in the first and second quarters, the departure of CTO and co-founder J.B. Straubel, and the delay of production of Model 3 vehicles at the company's Shanghai gigafactory also combined to scare some investors off.
The outlook for Tesla going forward
The market has shown that, while deliveries are important in the short-term, the true indication of the long-term value of Tesla is whether the company can improve its earnings and cash flow. Three months ago, the company's stock received a boost from its delivery report, but then dropped back down swiftly following its full earnings call for the quarter.
It's possible that a similar increase then drop-off could occur later this week following Tesla's third-quarter earnings call if the company's earnings per share are low once again.
For the long-term, though, it has to be seen as a positive that Tesla is continuing to deliver a record number of sales and deliveries. The Model S capturing the top spot in the luxury sedan sector is a huge positive, and sales could continue to climb as more consumers decide to make the switch to electric vehicles.
Long-term investors may hope for a drop in Tesla's stock following the Q3 earnings call, as it could provide a nice bargain to start a new position or add to an existing one. Should the company continue to break new sales and delivery records, the long-term value of the stock could soar to new heights.