• Electric Vehicles

Profitability Paradox: Consumers see Tesla profits that aren’t there

By Autolist Staff | February 7, 2018

Tesla reported earnings for the fourth quarter of 2017 today and as many expected, the news was grim: costs associated with bringing the Model 3 online meant the electric car maker posted a net loss of $770.8 million.

But don’t tell that to your average car shopper.

According to a recent Autolist survey, nearly 75% of respondents said they believed Tesla was a profitable company: 54% said they believed the company was profitable while another 19% said it was very profitable.

Tesla Earnings Chart

Unfortunately for Tesla, that perception is far from the truth.

Since the beginning of 2009 through the third quarter of 2017, Tesla was profitable twice in 35 quarters. In Q3 of last year alone, the company posted a loss of $619 million.

Autolist’s survey found that only a minority of car shoppers were aware of these numbers. Twenty-one percent characterized the company as unprofitable and another 6% said they believed it was very unprofitable.

The survey polled 1,277 people in December.

The same survey found that consumers also underestimated the importance of the Model 3 to Tesla’s long-term goals as a company.

Many analysts and even Tesla itself have pegged the “affordable” Model 3 — which starts at $35,000 before any tax incentives or rebates — as crucial to the company’s long-term fortunes.

Tesla Importance Chart

But fewer than a third of car shoppers — 27% — said they believed the Model 3 was the most important (announced) vehicle for Tesla, according to the Autolist poll.

Twenty six percent said the most important model was the Model S, 19% believed it was the Model X, 16% believed it is the Tesla Semi and 12% said it was the second-generation Roadster.

The smaller Model Y crossover that’s widely expected was omitted because Tesla hasn’t officially unveiled it yet.

Autolist previously explored Tesla’s role in the marketplace and found that its vehicles sell faster than other American car brands and that Teslas depreciate slower than their segment rivals. Even the Model 3 is projected to depreciate at a slower pace than its peers.

You can check out all of Autolist’s research here.