Elon Musk may be in a spot of trouble. The Tesla CEO has been ramping up production on the company’s entry-level Model 3 while also preparing to launch the Semi-electric truck, Model Y sports utility vehicle, and second-generation Roadster sports car. It needs money for expansion, it’s racking up debt, and it could run out of cash sooner than expected.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Tesla spent more than $3.4 billion in free cash last year, a pace that if continues would mean the company runs out of money by the end of this year. Tesla has both $10 billion in terms of long-term debt and $23 billion in total liabilities. And while the company had $3.4 billion cash by the end of last year and a further $550 million in bonds, $850 million of its pile is refundable deposits for cars like the $35,000 Model 3, which has been slowly ramping up production since deliveries started in July.
Tesla is battling through “production hell” on the Model 3 to get the Gigafactory’s machines up to speed and convert those deposits into full purchases. The company announced last September that it had produced 260 Model 3s in the quarter, even though it projected 1,500 in one month alone. The following quarter, it produced 2,425 Model 3s, when it originally projected 20,000 in the month of December. The company is set to announce its latest production rates next week.
Beyond its cars, Tesla is still working on its autonomous driving solution. Originally promised for 2017 as a compatible update for all cars produced after October 2016, Musk had to miss this deadline, as it wasn’t quite ready yet, and suggested it could ship this year. The company takes pre-orders at $3,000, and this figure is expected to rise to $5,000 when the feature ships. The feature could enable a ridesharing business model as outlined in the company’s 2016 plan.
Tesla has big future plans, but it needs to meet its targets with the Model 3 rollout and autonomous driving system if it wants to keep its promises to consumers and avoid running out of cash.
If it can pull through, the future looks exciting: The 2020 Roadster is set to travel over 600 miles per charge and achieve 0-60mph in a staggering 1.9 seconds.