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Tesla Q4 Earnings: What to Watch

By Daniel Sparks - Jan 15, 2021 at 8:21AM

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Tesla's updates on free cash flow, vehicle-delivery guidance, and its product pipeline will be key items for investors to review.

As if 2020 wasn't good enough for Tesla (TSLA 7.43%) stock, shares are already crushing the market in 2021. The electric-car maker's stock is up 21% year to date. This compares to a 1.6% gain for the S&P 500 so far this year. Of course, this momentum builds on the growth stock's 743% gain in 2020. Suffice it to say, expectations are high going into Tesla's upcoming earnings report.

The automaker just announced that it will release its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Here's an overview of some key items investors should look for when the company updates investors.

Tesla Cybertruck

Cybertruck. Image source: Tesla.

1. Free cash flow

2020 was a breakout year for Tesla. Not only did vehicle sales spike, but the automaker also showed investors that it can generate meaningful profits. While we don't have fourth-quarter results yet, we know that the company generated about $1.9 billion of free cash flow in the trailing-12-month period ending Sept. 30. Further, free cash flow and non-GAAP net income in Q3 alone was $1.4 billion and $874 million, respectively. 

Investors will be looking for more meaningful free cash flow from Tesla in Q4, particularly since we already know the company reported a record 180,570 deliveries during the period (up 61% year over year). 

Tesla vehicles at a charging station.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

2. Vehicle deliveries guidance

Going beyond Tesla's financials, investors will be looking to management's guidance for full-year 2021 deliveries. Investors are largely expecting accelerated growth in vehicle deliveries in 2021, thanks to the construction of new factories and the addition of new production lines.

I'll be looking for Tesla to guide for about 750,000 vehicle deliveries in 2021. This would translate to approximately 50% year-over-year growth and would be an acceleration from 36% growth in 2020.

3. New product pipeline

Finally, investors should look for an update on Tesla's plans for its product roadmap in 2021 and beyond. The company has three new vehicles nearing production including the Cybertruck, Tesla Semi, and Roadster. Indeed, Tesla explicitly said in its third-quarter update that Tesla Semi deliveries will "begin in 2021." But what about Tesla's new pickup truck (Cybertruck) and the overhauled Roadster? Are these vehicles coming to market soon, too?

Investors can tune into Tesla's fourth-quarter financial results after market close on Wednesday, Jan. 27. 

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