Monday was a hot one for Tesla Motors stock -- until just after Wall Street's closing bell. By the end of the night, shares were down 4 percent. Although the price largely recovered by Tuesday morning, the price was still below Monday's close.
What happened was the difference between Elon Musk's sound-good news about pre-sales for a new model and after-hours details that made investors wonder if Tesla could deliver.
Tesla said that orders for the new Model 3 had topped 276,000 since March 31. At $1,000 per order, that's a $276 million influx, a great example of letting customers finance your organization. If all orders were completed today at the minimum $35,000 price, it would represent at least $9.7 billion in revenue. That would likely go higher after options.
That last "if" is the rub. Because news after the bell reminded investors that Tesla has demonstrated difficulty in fulfilling the promises it makes to customers.
After the markets closed in the U.S., Tesla gave a first quarter status update, including units shipped. And the company claimed they were hurt by a shortage of parts from suppliers. That is, a shortage of a reported six parts out of 8,000 in the car.
This isn't the first time that Tesla has fallen down in delivering what it promised customers. Last year it shipped the Model X SUV after two years of delays (with falcon-wing doors being a major gating factor even after Musk said they weren't a big issue). The Model S was first available for pre-order in 2009 but didn't ship until more than three years later. It was roughly 18 months between the announcement of the original Tesla Roadster and availability.
Tesla has demonstrated that it has problems managing suppliers and lacks the infrastructure to control its own manufacturing and ensure delivery times. That is what investors found disturbing Monday night, because those $1,000 deposits on the Model 3 are all refundable. The potential for delay means an open window for competitors to woo Tesla's customers, particularly if those companies have products to deliver sooner rather than possibly later. Having great marketing is important. Designing products that people want is critical. But if you don't deliver on time -- if you can't get your hands dirty and make sure things run on time -- you run the risk of alienating consumers and disappointing investors.