Tesla Knocks Third Quarter Earnings Out Of The Park

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2020 hasn't been kind, but Tesla is managing to make it work.

2020 hasn't been kind to automakers big or small, but in the first two quarters of the year, Tesla somehow managed to make things work. The company only just eked out a profit in Q1, taking in a scant $16 million, before coming away from Q2 with a more tenable $104 million.

But things might not have been so rosy in Q2 if not for sales of regulatory credits. Currently, Tesla sells vast quantities of credits to other automakers who need them to comply with emissions regulations worldwide. It continues to be a huge, reliable source of revenue for the EV manufacturer.

2017-2020 Tesla Model 3 Front View Tesla
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2017-2020 Tesla Model 3 Front View Driving Tesla

In fact, some 7% of Tesla's revenue in the second quarter - $428 million - came from sales of regulatory credits. That's more than four times the company's profit for the quarter; were it not for those credits, the automaker would have come up more than $300 million short.

But things were different in Q3, as Tesla managed profits of $331 million for the quarter, largely on the back of excellent sales of the Tesla Model 3 and new Tesla Model Y. Those profits are nearly equal with the automaker's $397 million in regulatory credit sales, and in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, that's worth celebrating.

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2020 Tesla Model Y Front View Tesla
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It's also important to remember the quantity of cash Tesla is expending on Giga Berlin, not to mention scaling up production at the new Giga Shanghai. Those are significant investments, but with a record 139,593 vehicle deliveries for the quarter, Tesla's balance sheet is looking pretty good.

Looking back, the fourth quarter of 2019 was arguably the defining turning point for the long-struggling EV manufacturer. That's when it posted its first-ever annual profit of $35.8 million, thanks to its hefty Q4 profit of $386 million. With four products on the market, two big manufacturing hubs, and two more in the works, there's effectively nowhere to go but up.

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