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from the L.A. Times

Tesla's fourth-quarter loss doubles, even as revenue surges

Tesla

Tesla Motors Inc. saw its loss increase 177% last year, the electric vehicle company said Tuesday.

The only public automaker in California, Palo Alto-based Tesla said its loss ballooned to $154.3 million in 2010 from $55.7 million in 2009.

The company's loss for the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31 was $51.4 million, or 54 cents a share. That's more than double the $24.2 million, or $3.43 a share, for the same period in 2009, which had fewer outstanding shares.

Even after its initial public offering in June, Tesla has long struggled to convince investors that there’s substance behind the razzle-dazzle.

Just last week, the automaker opened stores in Italy and Washington, D.C. to great fanfare. The opening of the Milan showroom featured an extravagant gala with more than 400 guests. The company’s electric Roadster counts celebrities such as Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio among its fans.

But while Tesla sells the Roadster for more than $100,000, it only makes several hundred of the vehicles each year and has delivered just 1,500 total. Instead, chief executive Elon Musk is pinning his hopes for a profit on the upcoming Model S sedan.

Tesla plans to make 20,000 Model S units a year and will start selling the vehicles in the second half of 2012 for about $50,000 after government incentives. So far, the company has received more than 3,700 reservations for the vehicle and, in “the highlight of the quarter,” said it has finished making a drivable version for testing.

In 2010, Tesla’s revenue jumped to $116.7 million, up $4.8 million from the year before. In the fourth quarter, revenue was $36.3 million, a 95% improvement on the same quarter in 2009.

The company credited its lucrative partnership with Daimler, which ordered 1,800 sets of battery packs and chargers for the Smart Fortwo electric vehicle.

Tesla also hooked up with Toyota this quarter to make an electric version of the RAV 4 compact SUV, with sales pegged to start next year. The deal is expected to generate up to $69 million in development services revenue for Tesla over the next year or so.

Last month, the company also said that it planned to make a small sport utility vehicle called the Model X, set to arrive in 2014.

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-- Tiffany Hsu [follow]

Photo: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

 
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