The Silicon Valley company rolled 5,031 Model 3s off its assembly lines in the last seven days of June, along with 1,913 higher-end Model S sedan and Model X crossover models. The Model 3, with a base price of $35,000 before tax credits, is the key to Tesla becoming a mainstream automaker.
Increasing Model 3 production is critical for filling a long list of unfilled customer orders and ultimately making turning profitable.
Tesla had pledged to hit 5,000 units per month as early as the final quarter of last year. But it ran into several roadblocks before meeting the goal, including what CEO Elon Musk admitted was an overabundance of automation.
"We did it!! What an incredible job by an amazing team," Musk wrote in an e-mail to employees on July 1, posted by Bloomberg. "We either found a way or, by will and inventiveness, created entirely new solutions that were thought impossible." One bold step was building an assembly line in a tent in the company's parking lot.
In its press release, Tesla also said it expects to reach 6,000 Model 3s per week by late August. It also reaffirmed an earlier prediction of positive net income in the second half of the year. But investment research firm CFRA downgraded its rating on Tesla's stock from "sell" to "hold" on Monday, saying it did not view the current production rate as sustainable. Shares fell by $7.88, or 2.3%, to $335.07.
Though it's only at a fraction of the volume of major automakers like GM or Ford, each of which sells about 200,000 vehicles per month just in the US, Tesla has been instrumental in driving the car industry toward electric propulsion, partial self-driving capabilities, and over-the-air software updates.
On Monday, its market capitalization was slightly bigger than GM's.
Now Tesla is also helping to expand the nascent market for electric commercial trucks. There are more than 15,000 orders out for electrified trucks and buses to ship between now and 2021, according to a recent study by Interact Analysis. About 10,000 of them are for trucks due from Tesla and from Nikola Motor, a Utah-based company developing fuel-cell trucks, according to Interact's research.
Tesla reportedly has orders from UPS, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch and food services giant Sysco, though it hasn't named any interested customers.
Controversy over accidents involving cars on Autopilot have dogged Tesla even as Musk has insisted the partial self-driving system makes driving safer and vowed to produce statistics that prove it. Musk has lashed out at the National Transportation Safety Board and the media over Autopilot, while consumer advocacy groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how Tesla advertises the system.
— Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.