Five thousand cars in January? That’s the question raised by a recent posting on the Tesla Motors Club forum making note of Tesla VINs (sequence numbers) through the late-December through late-January time period.
As noted in the post — VIN numbers in late December were in the 70200s range, but by late January they had climbed to the 75300s range. Which would, presumably, mean that between those dates roughly ~5000 cars were ordered. Wouldn’t it?
Or is there something else going no here, perhaps skipped numbers?
Here’s the original posting from “ElectricTundra” on the forum:
I received VIN 702xx in late December (P85D for late Feb delivery to MN). By late January they were up to 753xx with at least a couple of 74xxx+ mentioning late Feb delivery. I would assume that Tesla VINs (sequence numbers) are assigned on order confirm with no relation to production begin/end dates and that there are occasional skips in the sequence number. Did they wait to assign all of the 85D’s? Something else?
Interestingly, one of the other commentators on the forum topic, “bonaire,” noted that in 2014 there were roughly 9000 more vin #s assigned than cars known to have been produced that year — suggesting that the numbers don’t track with production numbers exactly (not in an obvious fashion, anyways).
A good deal of further light was shed on the topic by another forum commentator by the name of “breser,” who noted that VINs were/are assigned somewhere around 6 weeks before production is expected to begin. He also noted that a fair number of P85D orders didn’t get VINs until January, and some “still” don’t have them.
Here’s more from his comment:
I personally have used VIN assignment to speculate on production. Assuming that you can somewhat guess how many cars they have produced by the VINs they are assigning today. If they’re consistent with 6 weeks and the VIN someone is assigned today is going to be made in 6 weeks then you can figure they have 6 weeks worth of production backlogged. There are two problems with this analysis.
1) You need to know their weekly production numbers. We know a little about this since it gets mentioned in investor letters. Their plan was to exit 2014 with 1,000 cars a week. They’ve also said they want to double production every year. So that would mean they’d need to have a weekly run rate of 2,000 by the end of 2015. However, these production changes are not likely to slowly ramp up but to change in leaps as they make changes to increase their production. For example if Tesla added a 3rd shift (I believe they run 2 now). That would increase their production by a 3rd. That 3rd shift might take some time to ramp up but eventually you’d have a fairly dramatic increase. There’s a lot of speculation that they are up to 1,200 vehicles per week over on the investor threads. I’ve used that number myself largely because they really need to lead ahead of their doubling numbers in order to actually double production in a year. But that number might even be conservative, we just don’t know. The most interesting time to do this is when you’re close to an end of quarter and sadly that’s when you have the least accurate information.
2) It can potentially fail pretty badly if there are major shifts in their plans. If Tesla assigned VINs and then decided not to make a large amount of those cars till more than 6 weeks later then the estimate will be significantly off. These sorts of things may have happened. There were delays with the 85D production start (seems to have gotten going roughly 2 weeks later than expected). They obviously did not idle the plant while that happened and continued to make other RWD vehicles and P85Ds. There is also the fairly common rearranging of production to limit inventory across the end of a quarter. Back in Q3 2014 it was clear that some of this happened at the expense of orders that were already planned. You can try and account for this by executing the estimation strategy and then comparing it to numbers we know. Coming up with an error factor and then applying it to future estimates. But that only works if the errors are fairly normal, which they may not be.
The takeaway here (from the comment) is that if the 1200 cars a week figure has truth to it, then 5000 cars in January could very well be accurate. Which, as noted by the commentator, would put Tesla on schedule to produce ~60,000 vehicles in 2015 — considering that the “official” target for the year is 55,000, 5000 for January would then make sense.
Those wanting an overview of 2014 (to get a better idea of what 2015 likely has in store, including with regard to production numbers) will want to check out our recent article: Tesla Still Rocking It — 2014 Breakdown.
Image Credit: Tesla Motors