Tesla’s price cuts eat into Cybertruck maker’s profits as net income plunges 44% in the 3rd quarter

LOS ANGELES – Tesla’s net income slumped in the third quarter versus a year earlier, as price reductions helped drive strong sales growth but also ate into the automaker’s profit margins

The Austin, Texas, maker of electric vehicles, solar panels and batteries on Wednesday reported net income of $1.85 billion for the July-September quarter, a 44% decline from a year earlier. Earnings per share fell to 53 cents from 95 cents.

Excluding stock-based compensation, Tesla’s adjusted net income fell to $2.32 billion, or 66 cents per share. On that basis, Tesla’s earnings fell short of analysts’ consensus estimate of 73 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Total revenue rose 9% to $23.35 billion. Analysts had forecast $24.19 billion.

Earlier this month, the company reported that it sold 435,059 vehicles during the July-September period, an increase of 27% from the same stretch last year. Even so, Tesla’s deliveries came in below the 461,000 vehicles analysts had predicted the company would sell during the quarter, according to FactSet Research.

The third-quarter sales also marked a step back from Tesla’s 466,140 vehicle deliveries during the April-to-June period, something Tesla blamed on planned downtime to upgrade its factories.

Tesla has been slashing prices most of this year to keep attracting buyers who now have a wider selection of electric vehicles as more automakers shift away from gasoline-powered cars and trucks. The discounts range from $4,400 on Tesla’s top-selling vehicles to as much as $20,000 on its most expensive models.

The latest round of cost cutting trimmed Tesla’s operating margin, which represents how efficiently sales are turned into pretax profits, down to 7.6% in the third quarter. That’s down from 17.2% a year earlier. The measure also declined sharply in the first two quarters of this year.

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In addition to lowered electric vehicle prices, increased expenses related to Tesla’s Cybertruck and the development of an AI-trained “humanoid robot” also hurt the company’s bottom line.

As usual, Tesla’s third-quarter sales consisted primarily of its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, which have been made even more attractive by lowered prices. Despite large price cuts, sales of the aging models S and X fell 14% year over year to 15,985.

Looking ahead, the company reiterated its plans to produce around 1.8 million vehicles this year. And said its long-awaited, Cybertruck electric pickup is on track to begin deliveries this year.

During a conference call with analysts, CEO Elon Musk said the company will end up producing roughly a quarter-million Cybertrucks a year. He clarified that he doesn’t expect Tesla will reach that production level for the futuristic-looking vehicle next year, but “probably” sometime in 2025.

“I just want to emphasize that while I think this is potentially our best product ever … it is going to require immense work to reach volume production and be cash flow positive at a price that people can afford,” Musk said.

Tesla’s shares closed 4.8% lower Thursday. They were up 2% in after-hours trading following the release of the earnings report.