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Tesla is burning so much cash it could go broke by the end of the year

Published Apr 30th, 2018 3:46PM EDT
Tesla cash, finances, going broke in 2018

Tesla is not much like any other car company. It’s eschewed dealerships, the usual pre-production testing, meetings, management structure, and allegedly worker safety in an effort to get cheap electric cars out the door.

But according to a new Bloomberg dive into the company’s finances, Tesla’s window of opportunity might be running out. Without a miraculous turnaround in vehicle production, or (far more likely) a new injection of cash, the company is set to run out of money before the end of the year.

According to Bloomberg‘s numbers, Tesla is burning an average of $6,500 every minute. The burn rate hasn’t been nearly this bad for the majority of Tesla’s 15-year existence. Free cash flow, a measure of how much money a company makes after removing capital expenditures, like new manufacturing equipment, has been negative for the last three quarters. For a full 12-month period between the end of 2016 and 2017, Tesla was recording negative free cash flow of at least $500 million per quarter.

Much of the recent spending appears to be linked to Tesla’s ramp-up in vehicle production without a corresponding improvement in productivity:

Tesla has added employees faster than it has boosted revenue in three of the last four years. This includes more than doubling the workforce in 2017, when the company was scaling up for Model 3 production and took on employees from SolarCity Corp.

Tesla’s employee roster more than tripled from 2014 to 2017, and revenue per employee stagnated. General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. each bring in about 2.5 times as much revenue per employee. And Tesla’s swollen employee total doesn’t even account for what Musk recently characterized as a “Russian nesting doll” of contractor and subcontractor companies engaged in production at Tesla.

Tesla, for what it’s worth, has repeatedly maintained that it won’t have to add additional financing this year. “At some point in 2018, we expect to begin generating positive quarterly operating income on a sustained basis,” the company said in its most recent earnings statement.