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Tesla Model 3 reservations reached over 400,000 based on cash flow from customer deposits


Last week, we reported on some confusion over Tesla’s reservation numbers for the Model 3 spurring unfounded fear of a decline in the total reservations. Tesla hasn’t been helping the situation by sticking to the last disclosed number of 373,000 reservations, which was disclosed back in May.

Now that Tesla reported its second quarter earnings this week and released its 10-Q filing today, we have a much better idea of the number of reservations Tesla has received for its upcoming $35,000 sedan, and nothing points to a decline, on the contrary…

During the first quarter 2016, Tesla only took deposits from regular customers for the Model 3 during one day, on March 31st, the day of the unveiling. For that quarter, Tesla reported a positive cash flow for customer deposits of $100 million. Tesla’s quarterly cash flow of deposits varies greatly based on what models they are taking reservations for during the period.

Since deposits from orders get written off once the reservation turns into a sale, reservations from upcoming models have a greater impact, unless deliveries change significantly quarter to quarter.

It’s not clear how many Model 3 reservations accounted for the $100 million cash flow during the first quarter, but it’s safe to presume that it is most an important part of the amount since before Elon Musk walked off stage on March 31st, he confirmed Tesla had already received over 115,000 reservations. The deposit is $1,000 per reservation.

While Tesla likely couldn’t account for all those reservations depending on when they closed their fiscal quarter and collected the cash, it’s safe to assume that a fair amount contributed to the $100 million cash flow when you consider that the automaker also took reservations from its employees and SpaceX employees weeks before the quarter closed.

Tesla Model 3 rare red prototype displayed at the Tesla Gigafactory [Gallery]

Now back to this quarter, which accounts for the bulk of Tesla’s Model 3 reservations. Tesla reported a cash flow from customer deposits of $398 million as of June 30.

Tesla confirmed in its SEC filing today that “the increase is primarily due to Model 3 deposits”.

What’s particularly interesting here is that this positive net increase of ~$398 million in customer deposits during the first half of 2016 accounts also for important withdraws from Tesla converting its early Model X reservations into orders through the SUV’s production ramp up during the same period.

Tesla had reportedly over 25,000 reservations for the Model X, including around 1,000 for the ‘Signature series’, which required a $40,000 deposits. Over 80% of the ~$40 million worth of Signature series deposits had to flow out of customer deposits during the first half of 2016, which is an even better sign for Model 3 reservations based on cash flow from customer deposits.

While it’s understandably suspicious that Tesla doesn’t want to update the official Model 3 reservation tally and it still refers to the 373,000 number reported in May, the company could be waiting to reach a certain round number before updating, like 500,000.

As mentioned, based on the reported cash flow from customer deposits, it’s difficult to imagine Tesla holding less than 400,000 reservations for the Model 3 at the moment, likely inching closer and closer to 500,000.

Of course, that’s as of the end of the second quarter ended June 30. Tesla has since released the Model S 60 and the Model X 60, both cheaper versions of Tesla’s flagship vehicles. The new versions aim to lower Tesla’ entry price and tap into the new Model 3 customer base. The automaker was likely successful in convincing a few to change their Model 3 reservation in a Model S 60 or Model X 60 order, but it’s unknown at this point what impact it has on the Model 3 reservation tally.

It’s crucial not to forget that the number of reservations for the Model 3 is particularly important for reservation holders in the US as it could determine if they get access to a full or partial federal tax credit for their new vehicle. It’s something we discussed in more details in our piece: ‘Tesla’s new Model 3 production plan will optimize access to the federal tax credit‘.

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