Tesla averts cash crunch as Musk mystique offsets late cars

The company reported $675 million in losses attributable to shareholders in Q4, wrapping up 2017 with nearly $2 billion in losses for the whole year. The company said the issue was bottlenecks on the production floor, and it bought an automation and machining company called Perbix, presumably to handle those bottlenecks.

Musk admitted that he'd "missed the mark on that front", regarding the original autonomous drive demonstration, but he qualified that Tesla "could've done the coast-to-coast drive [last year] but that the company "would've had to do too much custom code, effectively gaming it".

"We have to solve passive optical image recognition extremely well in order to be able to drive in any environment and in any conditions", Musk said on today's Tesla quarterly earnings call. The company ended the quarter with $3.37 billion in cash.

The figure is more than five times the amount of losses the company suffered in the same period a year ago, which stood at US$121 million.

Musk scored a clear victory on Tuesday with the successful launch of the world's most powerful rocket, Falcon Heavy, made by his private company SpaceX.

The as yet unveiled Tesla Semi was also slated to come out soon.

Other new projects requiring high upfront investment include the recently unveiled Tesla Semi to the upcoming Model Y SUV and a factory in China.

"2018 will be a transformative year for Tesla", Musk wrote in a letter to shareholders. The company revealed that it had completed "an extensive overhaul of the underlying architecture of our software" enabling "a step-change improvement in the collection and analysis of data and fundamentally enhanced its machine learning capabilities". But Musk said Wednesday he has no plans to step aside as CEO.

- He is reasonably confident the company can reach positive cash flow probably in Q3, four or five months from now.

Tesla's energy business saw an increase in sales of its Powerwall storage battery, Tesla said.

"This is the year when we believe we can achieve true cost parity-producing a premium EV like the Model 3 will be no more expensive than producing an ICE vehicle, something that many believe is not yet possible", Tesla said. "I think we may be able to exceed the specs that we announced previous year which would be exciting", he added. "Used-car sales were the main driver of this year-over-year growth".

Musk also talked about the Fremont factory and the Gigafactory in Sparks, NV.

"The competitive strength of Tesla long term is not going to be the auto (s), it's going to be the factory, we're going to productise the factory", he said.

Despite ongoing production bottlenecks, the electric vehicle maker said it would continue to target Model 3 production rates of 2,500 by the end of the first quarter this year, and 5,000 by the end of the second quarter. Paying customers are supporting Tesla through its production struggle - they've put down more than $850 million in deposits for vehicles including the Semi truck and Roadster sports auto Musk showed off in November.

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