Jim Motavalli for The New York Times
Tesla Motors threw out a lot of numbers at its news conference Tuesday at the Detroit auto show — about new Supercharger locations, about store and service center openings — but it did not directly address production or delivery numbers for the Model S sedan, and it wasn’t saying very much about reported cash-flow problems as production of the car ramps up.
2013 Detroit Auto Show
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George Blankenship, a Tesla vice president and marketing specialist, stood in front of the company’s Model X design prototype and recounted the many awards Tesla won in 2012, the 13 new stores it opened last year and the eight 480-volt Supercharger locations in highway corridors along the East and West Coasts. The company will open 25 more stores this year, including its first in China, he said.
But Tesla declined to say how many cars it has built or delivered, citing a previous goal of producing 2,500 to 3,000 cars in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Interviewed after the news conference, Mr. Blankenship said that cash-flow issues should be taken in historical context. “People have to understand that Tesla has been investing its money in robots, presses and dies to outfit our factory,” he said. “That’s what you have to do before you build your first car, and it produces zero revenue. In assessing our performance, you can’t just look at the cash flow from the last 18 months — you have to look at what is happening now that we’re selling cars.”
A company spokeswoman, Christina Ra, said in an interview that Tesla would address financial issues during an earnings call in mid-February. Elon Musk, the chief executive, was in Detroit during the show, she said, but was not making a public appearance. Asked if he was meeting with prospective partners, Ms. Ra said, “Those meetings are always happening, and it’s easier in Detroit because so many people are here. What’s more convenient than Detroit?”
When queried if Tesla’s Model S production was in the hundreds, Ms. Ra said “more than that.”
Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer, also spoke at the news conference and highlighted the virtues of the Model X crossover, including its dual-pivot “falcon wing” doors. The Model X will be built on the Model S platform, with the first deliveries planned for 2014. The company also plans a smaller vehicle that would sell, in theory, for about $30,000.
In an interview, Mr. von Holzhausen said the small car, which could be a volume leader for Tesla, is in the early design stages. “It’s still a doodle on a napkin,” he said. During the news conference, he said that the small car would appear in “three to four years.”