Tesla’s Model S has reached Australia. The company began deliveries of the Model S on Dec. 9 and held a high-flying launch event in Sydney.
The California-based electric car company is aggressively expanding its international market. The expansion has been especially strong in Asia. Buyers in China can now order Tesla cars through Alibaba, and a new showroom has recently opened in Osaka, Japan.
Tesla made its first deliveries in China on May 22. Through September 30—four months later—it saw revenues of $342.8 million in that country. That’s more than a third of the $984 million it earned in the U.S. in the first nine months of the year.
“The Chinese have been very excited to welcome the product, so I think it’s going to be a good market for them,” said Andrea James of Dougherty & Co LLC in a phone interview. “New vehicle models and international expansion are the two ways that they’re growing the company.”
The company’s Shenzhen location in China is already one of its highest grossing stores worldwide, according to the shareholder letter of Nov. 5, though no numbers were provided.
In its latest earnings call on Nov. 5, Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, said he expects growth in deliveries over time as the company builds charging infrastructure in China.
“We’re building that infrastructure very quickly, and in fact, I’ve seen that our China team is building it out faster than any region that Tesla has gone into before,” Musk said.
In its third quarter earning filings the company stated that it plans to expand in China “as quickly as possible because we believe that the country could be one of our largest markets within a few years.” However, it cautioned that the company has “relatively limited experience in Asian markets” and may therefore face difficulties meeting its delivery plans in Asia.
Bumps in the road in Asia are not restricted to delivery plans. Friday, Dec. 13, the company announced that Veronica Wu, its China president, had resigned, but gave no reason for her resignation.
Tesla has been in Europe longer and has a larger charger infrastructure. On Oct. 16, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport inaugurated a fleet of 167 Model S taxis. Their greatest success in the continent has been Norway—a country with strong incentives for consumers to buy non-carbon-emission vehicles. There, Tesla had revenues of $371.7 million in the first nine months of 2014. According to the company’s website, there’s a Tesla on the road in 37 countries worldwide.
In the U.S., Tesla secured in September a $1.3 billion incentive package from Nevada to build the world’s largest lithium battery factory—called the “Gigafactory”—near Reno. The factory, for which Tesla partnered with the Japanese company Panasonic, is expected to become operational in 2017 and produce enough batteries for 500,000 electric cars each year by 2020.
By building the factory, the company hopes to reduce the cost of car production and make future Tesla models more affordable. Not only is Tesla trying to expand geographically, but it also wants to widen its costumer base by producing less expensive models in years to come.
Simon Moores, manager of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, talks about Tesla’s Gigafactory.
David Whiston, senior analyst at Morningstar, argues in his Nov. 6 note that it was a good strategy to start by producing a luxury car.
“We think that if Tesla had started with a mass-market vehicle, it probably would have failed, as not enough people would have known about the car nor been willing to pay for the brand,” he wrote.
To be sure, the Tesla Model S and its predecessor, the Roadster, are not the only plug-in vehicles out there. 150,000 Nissan Leaf have been sold since this car hit the market in December 2010. GM’s Volt and Ampera have combined total sales of over 87,000 units.
The Tesla Model S, which was released in June 2012, had total sales of almost 47,000 units by the end of September (Tesla only releases sales information on a quarterly basis). Yet, unlike Nissan and GM, Tesla began its life as an all-electric-vehicle company—and many investors are betting on its future.
In the past 12 months, Tesla’s stock price has increased by more than 40 percent. At closing Friday, Tesla traded at $207 a share.
Even though total revenues increased by more than 97 percent in the past year—from over $431 million in the third quarter of 2013 to over $851 million last quarter—the company keeps losing money. Losses have nearly doubled from almost $38.5 million in the third quarter of 2013, to over $74.7 million in the last quarter.
Yet, this does not seem to hinder Tesla’s international strategy.
“You’ve got a growing upper class in China, there’s a lot of people there who want to buy good cars and Tesla makes a good car and it doesn’t pollute the environment,” James said.
China has a growing market for cars. Since 2008, sales of passenger vehicles have increased by 165 percent. In 2013, 17.93 million were sold, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers—surpassing the U.S. historical record of 17.4 million in 2000.
Tesla has already installed 23 “Supercharging” locations in 10 Chinese cities—it has 124 in the U.S. and 82 in Europe—and plans to keep expanding.
As of earlier this month, Australia is in its sights. “Another market to conquer,” said Efraim Levy, equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ, in a phone interview.