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Tesla has been down a rough road this year. What’s next for Elon Musk’s cash cow?

Between Twitter and Tesla, Elon Musk has been juggling two companies in crisis, the latter of which reported second-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

Tesla has been down a rough road this year. What’s next for Elon Musk’s cash cow?
[Photo: Christian Marquardt -Pool/Getty Images]

Update Wednesday, 4:25 p.m. ET:

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Tesla beat Wall Street expectations for both revenue and earnings in the second quarter of 2022, reporting revenue of $16.9 billion and earnings per share of $2.27.

It also beat expectations for profit at $2.3 billion (vs. a $1.9 billion estimate)—however, the number still breaks Tesla’s year-long streak of record quarterly profits, down 30% from last quarter.

Following the news, Tesla’s stock surged 4% in after-hours trading.

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Original story:

Tesla’s been down a bumpy road this year, between COVID shutdowns at its Shanghai Gigafactory, a global stock market crash, and an early round of company layoffs.

Now, investors will be inspecting its quarterly earnings to glean whether the end of 2022 might be better than its tumultuous first half.

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The shutdowns—which swept China this spring as COVID case numbers ticked up and the country’s zero-tolerance policy bore down—were particularly costly for the electric carmaker. In late March, its Shanghai factory, which typically cranks out half a million vehicles per year, was stalled for three weeks before the company pushed to restart operations within a strict closed-loop system (for which it supplied workers with sleeping bags, pop-up showers, and cafeteria meals so that they could live at the plant without any outside contact). According to some analyst estimates, each day of the shutdown could have cost Tesla 2,000 to 3,000 units of lost production, totaling up to 63,000 cars that were never delivered.

The production hit also comes as Tesla has grappled with a worldwide semiconductor chip shortage for over a year.

But those lost weeks, as well as the status of the ramp-up of the closed-loop system, are still a black box, making it difficult to predict exactly what Wednesday’s earnings report will look like. Some analysts project a 12% decline in quarterly revenue and a 42% drop in quarterly profit—with narrowing profit margins also chalked up to the rising cost of raw materials like nickel.

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The Wall Street consensus estimates stand at $16.5 billion for revenue and $1.81 earnings per share.

“The expectations are very low for the quarter,” one research firm’s CEO told Reuters.

Tesla chief Elon Musk might have suggested as much himself. In June, in leaked emails from Musk reported by Reuters, he wrote that he had a “bad feeling” about the economy, which had already seen major indexes like the S&P 500 sink by more than 1,000 points this year, totaling some of the worst losses in decades. Those emails went on to recommend a global hiring freeze and 10% reduction of salaried workers.

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A first round of cuts was carried out several weeks later, along with the shuttering of the company’s San Mateo office. According to Bloomberg sources, those staffers were responsible for fact-checking whether Tesla’s Autopilot feature correctly identified objects like trees, street signs, and traffic lanes.

Later in June, Musk also shared in an interview that Tesla’s brand new factories in Austin and Berlin were still “gigantic money furnaces right now . . . It’s really like a giant roaring sound, which is the sound of money on fire.”

However, some analysts are hopeful that Tesla can turn the car around in the latter half of the year. Much of that could depend on whether its Shanghai factory can make up for lost time, and if the new U.S. and Europe factories can shift into gear. According to the company, it has already begun to bounce back in June with “the highest vehicle production month in Tesla’s history.”

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Still, deliveries fell for the first time since 2020, down to 254,000 units for the quarter.

It faces another headwind with growing competition in the field, which now includes legacy auto heavyweights. Last year, Ford unveiled its the F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, which rivals Tesla’s long-delayed Cybertruck. And on Monday, General Motors said it would roll out a Chevrolet Blazer electric SUV next summer, a direct competitor to Tesla’s Model Y.

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