Tesla's Q1 earnings report proved to be kind of a bummer

The EV company struggles to consistently make a profit as competitors start to close the technology gap.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
3 min read
Tesla Debuts Its New Crossover SUV Model, Tesla X

2019 is shaping up to be a challenging year for Tesla, but one that could pay off big if it plays its cards right.

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Q1 earnings report started off by looking a little grim. With nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in net losses, and automotive revenue that was down 41% from Q4 of 2018, it's hard to be super enthusiastic about things like Model Y (for which Tesla still hasn't decided on a production location) and full self-driving tech.

Tesla is a company that's used to being in the red, though, and there are a number of things on the horizon that could work to make this quarter's bleak-looking balance sheet more of an outlier than a trend. Tesla's deliveries of cars to Europe and China threw a wrench in its works, but that situation seems to be mostly resolved. The Chinese market should -- provided demand stays where it is -- prove to be a profitable one once the Shanghai Gigafactory opens its doors and fires up its production lines.

In fact, Tesla plans to increase vehicle deliveries to between 360,000 and 400,000 per year in 2019. That would represent a 45%-65% increase in deliveries over 2018, which would be huge, if it actually happens. On the production side, the numbers are even bigger. Tesla stated that if its able to get the Shanghai factory up and running by Q4 that it its global production could exceed 500,000 vehicles. That sounds huge, but compared to a company like that built 9.7 million cars in 2015 alone, it's a drop in the bucket.

On the margin side of things, Tesla is still gunning for a 25% margin on all of its vehicles, but fell well short of that with the actual number hovering somewhere around 20%.

On the upside, Tesla finally offered a serious update to its aging and X platforms that it hopes -- and we'd agree -- will boost flagging sales of those flagship models. Updates to those models included new motors, updated active damping and other suspension tweaks plus a host of other smaller modifications. The powertrain updates proved to be worth a significant mileage boost, with the non-performance Model S 100D now capable of doing 370 miles on a single charge. Model X got a range bump too, but it's slightly less impressive at 325 miles.

Among the other big updates that Tesla announced during its call were plans to launch a vehicle insurance product in the coming months. This is an interesting move, but one that makes sense given the wildly varying costs for vehicle owners to insure their Teslas. It's also an effective way for Tesla to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to its claims of vehicle safety and Autopilot effectiveness.

CEO Elon Musk explained that the insurance rates for this in-house Tesla insurance would be based on the data collected by its cars. This data is being used to create the actuarial tables and risk reports, but the company is planning on going further than that. During the call Musk explained that individual driving habits would be taken into account when it comes to pricing. This is kind of like a hyper-detailed high tech version of the dongles that some insurance companies are offering to customers for use-based insurance.

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