Elon Musk's Tesla is burning through $10,500 a minute as Model 3 problems linger
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Elon Musk's Tesla is burning through $10,500 a minute as Model 3 problems linger

Elon Musk said last week that Tesla is designing a new sports car that could go from zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds. Not bad, but here's a speed number that investors might want to focus on instead:

Over the past 12 months, the electric-car maker has been burning money at a clip of about $US8,000 a minute ($10,500), Bloomberg data show. At this pace, the company is on track to exhaust its current cash pile on Monday, August 6.

To be fair, few Tesla watchers expect the cash burn to continue at quite such a breakneck pace, and the company itself says it's ramping up output of its all-important Model 3, which will bring money in the door. But still, its need for fresh cash came into high relief last week when Musk unveiled his latest plan to raise funds. He's asking customers to pay him upfront to order vehicles that may not be delivered for years.

The souped-up Roadster will cost buyers a $US250,000 down payment even though it's not coming for more than two years. That might generate $US250 million; orders for the "founders" Roadster are capped at 1,000. And companies can pre-order electric Semi trucks for $US5,000. They don't go into production until 2019.

The company is ramping up output of its all-important Model 3 to help bring money in the door.

The company is ramping up output of its all-important Model 3 to help bring money in the door.

Photo: AP
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But all this is a pittance compared with Tesla's financial needs. It's blowing through more than $US1 billion a quarter thanks to massive investment in making the Model 3, a $US35,000 car that's looking less likely to generate a return anytime soon.

"Whether they can last another 10 months or a year, he needs money, and quickly," said Kevin Tynan, senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, who estimates Tesla will be required to raise at least $US2 billion in fresh capital by mid-2018.

'Significant cash flows' coming

Tesla has said it has ample money to meet its target of producing 5,000 Model 3 sedans by the end of March. After that date, the company expects to "generate significant cash flows from operating activities," Tesla said in a November 1 letter to shareholders. Tesla's capital expenditures should also decline as the company pays off its expenses related to the Model 3, CFO Deepak Ahuja said on a conference call the same day.

Dave Arnold, a spokesman for Tesla, declined to elaborate.

The Tesla Semi was unveiled last week.

The Tesla Semi was unveiled last week.

Photo: Tesla

Tesla's options are limited.

It's already drawing down on more of its revolving credit facilities than ever before. And while the bond market is a possible route, it may not be especially welcoming right now. Investors who bought $US1.8 billion of debt three months ago remain under water even after the notes recovered a bit from a low of 93.88 cents on the dollar early this month.

That may leave selling equity as the most viable option. But that, of course, would dilute existing shareholders, and Musk, at 20 per cent, is the biggest.

After hitting a record in September, Tesla's stock has fallen by 20 per cent.

Whether they can last another 10 months or a year, he needs money, and quickly.

Kevin Tynan, senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence
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"So long as the company is burning cash, it will remain dependent on the patience and enthusiasm of public markets or the deep pockets of a white knight," said Christian Hoffmann, a money manager at Thornburg Investment Management.

Bloomberg

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