MarketWatch First Take: Tesla’s earnings show is more cautious — and yes, boring — without Elon around

Tesla Inc. was more cautious Wednesday in both its shareholder letter and its conference call, its first since Chief Executive Elon Musk bowed out of the quarterly earnings show, and it may have cost the stock.

The electric-vehicle maker reported record third-quarter earnings and revenue Wednesday, but shares still declined 1.6% in after-hours trading. Tesla disclosed that chip shortages, port congestion and other supply-chain issues were hurting its ability to make as many cars as it could sell, and toned down its forecasts language. Tesla’s revenue of $13.8 billion came in a bit shy of analysts’ estimates of $14 billion.

Tesla also removed a clause that had led investors to believe 2021 would be an outlier growth year, when it stated previously: “In some years it may grow faster, which we expect to be the case in 2021.”

“It’s important to note while we have roughly doubled deliveries year to date, this has been exceptionally difficult to achieve,” said Tesla

Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn, who took over as the main executive in Tesla’s earnings call after Musk bowed out last quarter.

When asked by investors what the company’s goal was for production capacity, Kirkhorn said Tesla seeks to increase growth by 50%, but wisely couched that goal in a way that Musk rarely does.

“There may be some periods of time which we’re ahead of that. There could be some periods of time despite our best efforts where we’re slightly lower than that,” he said. “But that remains the long-term goal of the company.”

Gone from the quarterly call were the often outlandish predictions by Musk, such as his infamous prediction for 1 million Teslas as self-driving robotaxis in 2020 and his forecasts for production targets that were frequently missed.

Instead, the more staid call, with what seemed like a few more questions from Wall Street analysts, included more discussion of operating margins, but it also included comments on some small changes to the CyberTruck, and a statement that Tesla is looking to launch it late next year. When asked about the increased regulatory scrutiny of “Full Self-Driving” mode, Kirkhorn said there are regulatory inquiries all the time, and followed up with some bland corporate speak: “We expect and embrace the scrutiny of the products and know the truth about their performance and innovations our products have will ultimately be all that matters.”

Tesla also did not give specific revenue guidance for this year.

Investors seemed to be disappointed with the company’s manufacturing constraints or the more staid nature of the comments. In after-hours trading, shares of Tesla slipped about $14, or nearly 2%, as the call continued on. While they are likely better off without the often fantastic pronouncements and over-promising comments by the controversial Musk, investors definitely felt his absence today.

This post was originally published on Market Watch

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