Five things to listen for in Tesla's Wednesday earnings call

Tesla Motors holds its Q1 earnings call Wednesday after the bell. There’s a lot of potential news to come out of the call on Wednesday; here’s what I’d love to learn about. Analysts and journalists alike have learned to listen carefully to how CEO Elon Musk answers questions for key tidbits.

1. What’s up with the Gigafactory? In February, Tesla revealed a bold plan to build a $5 billion “Gigafactory” for lithium-ion batteries. CEO Elon Musk wants this plant up and running by 2017, as driving down battery costs by roughly 30 percent is key to Tesla’s ability to roll out its more affordable third-generation electric vehicle. But so far, there hasn’t been an announcement on who is partnering with Tesla to build this thing, much less where it will be located. There’s been a lot of speculation about which state is leading the race to win the factory, but more importantly: Who’s going to join hands with Tesla and put up the money to build it? LG Chem? Panasonic? Sony? Apple? Google? Musk has said they expect that there will be more than one partner in the factory, but even Panasonic hasn’t committed yet. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas has said that “Tesla’s near-term share price outlook will be dominated by developments (or lack thereof) surrounding its planned battery factory.”

2. Model X Deposits & Progress: During the February earnings call, Musk said that “Model X demand is very high” and claimed that, even though Tesla has not done any marketing for the Model X, it’s like “fish are jumping in the boat.” So how many Model X deposits does Tesla have in hand? The wonderful people on the Tesla Motors Club forum are attempting to track Model X reservations by region, and they put the global total at more than 14,000. Is Model X still slated to begin production in late 2014 with deliveries in early 2015?And are Model X reservations now surpassing that of the Model S?

3. Production Run Rate: Tesla is making more than 600 cars a week at its Fremont factory. The company says it will be at a 1,000-a-week run rate by the end of the year. Where are they now? Tesla is in the process of constructing new final assembly line; when is that slated to come online? What is this new production line in Lathrop for?

4. China: Musk told Bloomberg that Tesla will be building cars in China in three or four years. So will the Gigafactory be supplying battery packs to a car factory in China? Or will they build one Gigafactory in the U.S. and then perhaps a second Gigafactory in Asia? Also: Any updates on demand in China, additional showrooms and Supercharging stations, etc.?

5. Model S deliveries: Are sales slowing in the U.S.? This one is tricky. Tesla sold 6,892 Model S sedans worldwide in Q4. In its year-end letter to shareholders, Tesla said it expects to deliver 6,400 vehicles in Q1 and roughly 35,000 total in 2014. Tesla doesn’t typically break out sales and deliveries of the Model S by the three regions in which it is currently selling: the United States, Europe and Asia. But there is some concern that sales in the U.S. may have peaked and are now in decline, particularly in California, which was a hotbed of early adoption.

Tesla’s Model S sedan at the Great Wall of China. Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors.

Dana Hull Dana Hull (243 Posts)

Dana Hull covers clean technology and energy policy for the San Jose Mercury News. She often writes about electric vehicles, the smart grid, the solar industry and California energy policy, from RPS goals to Gov. Jerry Brown's big dreams for distributed generation.