Tesla Model S Sales Driving Company To Profit

Remember when Tesla was in the mud, wrestling with The New York Times? Such old news now. Tesla has moved on, and the latest from the upstart electric car company is that it expects to report a profit for the first quarter on the strength of higher-than-forecast Model S deliveries.

Sales of the “Model S vehicle exceeded the target provided in the mid February shareholder letter,” the company said in a statement on Monday. (It was April 1 but clearly this was no joke.) “As customers who note their Model S serial number this weekend will realize, vehicle deliveries (sales) exceeded 4,750 units vs. the 4,500 unit prior outlook,” Tesla went on. “As a result, Tesla is amending its Q1 guidance to full profitability.”

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A Model S on display in March at Chion-in, Kyoto, Japan. (image via Tesla Motors)

More news from the Monday statement: Forget about the lowest-cost, 40-kil0watt-hour battery version of the Model S. Folks didn’t want it, so Tesla won’t make it.

“Also being announced today is that the small battery option for the Model S will not enter production, due to lack of demand,” Tesla said. “Only four percent of customers chose the 40 kWh battery pack, which is not enough to justify production of that version. Customers are voting with their wallet that they want a car that gives them the freedom to travel long distances when needed.”

Monday’s announcements came on the heels of an upbeat blog post from the company in late-March in which George Blankenship, Tesla’s veep for “worldwide sales and ownership experience,” promoted expansion of Tesla’s test-drive program to Europe and Asia; talked up plans to open new stores; and said more Supercharger stations were on the way.

“Not only can drivers be seen daily across North America smiling as they cruise down the highway, they can also now be seen doing test drives across Europe and Asia as part of the Get Amped International Tour,” Blankenship wrote. “We are adding another forty test drive cars to the fleet in the next few weeks and look forward to seeing many of you at our upcoming test drive events.”

Tesla, you might recall, had said in December that it would open a new European Distribution Center in Tilburg, Netherlands, before the end of 2012. The company said the it would have a left-hand drive Model S, for country’s that swing that way, getting going this spring.

Stateside, Blankenship, in his March 21 missive, said that the company would soon be opening two more stores – one in Century City and another in Miami. On the matter of Superchargers (at the heart of that long-ago Times brouhaha), Blankeship reported:

We will be adding Supercharger coverage in many areas over the next three to four months, installing our first Superchargers in the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Illinois, and Florida with additional coverage in the Northeast and California. We’re also expanding existing locations like Harris Ranch, where we’re adding five more Superchargers in the next month. Supercharging is the perfect way to visit out of town friends and family, and remember, it’s always free!

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.