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Tesla's Q3 2019 earnings report shows a company still gathering its strength

Tesla's Q2 report was rough and Q3 isn't a total reversal of that, but there's plenty for investors to look forward to thanks to a $143 million profit.

Things continue to be serious for the Big T but they don't seem to be any direr than they were three months ago.
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Tesla's second-quarter report for 2019 wasn't what anyone would call "great" but it did show a company that was at least taking steps toward reliable profitability. Those steps included pushing ahead with Gigafactory Shanghai and simplifying the available configurations for the Model S and Model X.

Tesla's performance in the third quarter, which it announced in its quarterly earnings letter on Wednesday, doesn't seem to have shown any massive turnarounds, and while that's not especially surprising given that the company is in regroup-and-prepare mode, the news isn't all that bad, I mean it did turn a profit of $143 million after all -- the company says its operating costs are the lowest that they've been since Model 3 production began. Also in the good news category is that automotive gross and GAAP gross margins are both up, by 3.9% and 4.4% respectively. 

Just because the Big T hasn't been cranking out new stuff in the last few months doesn't mean it hasn't been busy. It had a Tesla Smart Summon isn't for use in public places, America feature. It also managed to finish the first phase of construction at its Gigafactory 3 outside Shanghai and has already entered trial production there. It was able to do all that for significantly less money than it spent in 2018 on Model 3 production infrastructure.

Speaking of infrastructure, Tesla managed to build a healthy 96,000 vehicles and delivered 97,000 and while that's short of its target, it's still nothing to sneeze at, plus the company is only sitting on 17 days' worth of inventory, down from 30 in Q1 which is huge. That tells us that, among other things, the return of free unlimited Supercharging for some models as a sales incentive worked. The launch of its own lower-cost insurance in California probably helped too.

In Fremont, the installation of the Model Y's production lines is well underway and in China, Tesla estimates that it's currently situated to produce as many as 150,000 Model 3s per year. For comparison, Fremont is currently able to churn out 325,000 Model 3s. As the workforce and the manufacturing processes continue to mature in Shanghai, we'd expect those numbers to come closer together.

The company also was able to open 66 new Supercharger stations with a total of 777 total Supercharger connections. That's a bump of 4% and 6% respectively and goes a long way toward keeping up Tesla's position as having one of the most robust charging networks in the world.

As is typical for us when we see Tesla's quarterly reports, our attitude remains wait and see. The company continues to set itself ambitious goals and pushes itself and its employees at a staggering rate to achieve them. Tesla is now finally starting to face real EV competition in a segment that it's long dominated thanks to the introduction of the Porsche Taycan, and how it deals with that will be a test of how well the company will fare as more competition begins to catch up.

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Update, 3:35 p.m.: Updated with specific number for Tesla Q3 profit