Tesla doesn't release monthly sales figures, except when it kind of does

Twelve times a year, every automaker releases monthly sales figures. Except General Motors and Tesla Inc., which post numbers four times a year: once per quarter.

That practice didn’t stop Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk from tweeting a link to July and August sales estimates from the online publication Inside EVs.

The numbers put Tesla in a good light, showing that sales of Tesla’s Model 3 electric car rose sharply and far surpassed sales of competing electric vehicles.

Musk didn’t directly verify the Inside EV numbers, but the statement he made on Twitter on Wednesday was declarative and without qualifiers. “Tesla 1st, 2nd & 3rd in August sales,” he tweeted, with a link to Inside EVs’ sales table.

According to Inside EVs, Model 3 sales jumped from 5,902 cars in June to 14,250 in July and 17,800 in August. It said Tesla’s Model X SUV came in second place in August, with 2,750 sold, and its Model S sedan took third, with 2,625. Toyota’s Prius Prime followed with 2,071.

Musk’s tweet went out after markets closed Wednesday. On Thursday morning, Tesla stock jumped 5%, but it quickly gave back those gains. It ended the day nearly flat at $280.95.

Asked whether Musk was validating the Inside EV numbers, a Tesla spokeswoman said by email that she could offer “nothing else beyond the tweet.”

In 2014, Musk told Inside EVs: “Part of the reason why we don’t release the monthly deliveries number is just because it varies quite a lot by region and the media tends to read all sorts of nonsense into the deliveries.”

The monthly numbers issued by Inside EVs have proved to be reasonably accurate. The website said it relies in part on Tesla insiders for its information. A spokesman said the company didn’t have time to discuss methodology in detail over the phone Thursday.

Tesla online forums, Twitter and Facebook are rife with people complaining that they’ve bought and fully paid for Model 3 cars, but that weeks have passed and they are still waiting to receive the vehicles.

The Inside EVs spokesman said the site’s estimates exclude cars that have been sold but not delivered. “The cars must be in the possession of its owner,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, short seller Andrew Left of Citron Research (interviewed last week by financial commentator Christoper Irons on his “Quoth the Raven” podcast) filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that Musk violated federal securities laws last month.

The suit alleges that Musk manipulated Tesla’s stock price, citing the Aug. 7 tweet in which Musk said he planned to take the company private at $420 a share and had “funding secured.”

It turned out that Musk had had conversations with a potential investor but had not nailed down a commitment for funding. He later aborted the go-private plan. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the matter.

russ.mitchell@latimes.com

Twitter: @russ1mitchell


UPDATES:

1:10 p.m.: This article was updated with Tesla stock closing nearly flat.

This article was originally published at 12:55 p.m.

In an earlier version of this story, General Motors was omitted as a company that reports sales figures quarterly. It announed the change from monthly to quarterly reporting in June.
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