Tesla stock jumped 12.7 percent to $294.14 yesterday on the possibility of a profitable or near-profitable quarter for the upstart automaker. It's up a further 1.3 percent pre-market.
The EV leader reports its third-quarter financials later today, abruptly bumping up the earnings call by a week for unknown reasons.
What to watch for in the earnings call
This is an important quarter for Tesla: It can prove to the world that it's a self-sustaining automotive enterprise that can mass-produce and profitably scale.
Tesla has a million moving parts. One metric boils down whether Tesla can mass-produce and profit — and that's Model 3 gross margin. The Model 3 accounted for more than 60 percent of Tesla deliveries in the third quarter, and it's the math of the Model 3 that will drive the investor story for the next few quarters.
The gross margin of the Model 3 "should grow significantly to approximately 15 percent in Q3 and to approximately 20 percent in Q4," according to Tesla's second-quarter results statement. The company added that it expects "to become both sustainably profitable and cash flow positive" in the second half of this year.
There are a lot of other Tesla metrics to watch: profitability, cash flows, and factory targets for next quarter. Not to mention the status of the European market and factory, the China market and factory, Model Y, Semi truck, roadster, energy businesses and full self-driving.
"The story has become too compelling to ignore"
Yesterday, in a marked reversal, committed short investor Citron Research flipped to enthusiastically long based on Tesla's absolute market dominance in electric vehicles, as well as sedans.
Andrew Left of Citron Research said, "The story has become too compelling to ignore," with Tesla "destroying the competition."
The investor knocked down many of the pillars of the short thesis, saying that competition "is nowhere to be found and no electric vehicle is slated to launch at the Model 3 price point until 2021." The mechanics liens seen as omens of doom by the shorts are "tiny" and "nothing" for a company its size.
As for the remarkable level of executive turnover, Citron had this to say: "Yes, Elon is very difficult to work for to a fault, but that does not change the customer appetite for the product."
The reformed Tesla short-seller now believes that Tesla's "bad manufacturing process" is "in the past" and the firm is "light-years" in front of the market. "No OEM is even close to having Tesla’s level of connectivity and upgradeability in its cars. Tesla is dominating the industry with no advertising, no unions, no dealer network."
Citron suggests that the media has missed the "legitimate disruption" of the auto industry that is being "dominated" by Tesla, which is, apparently, the "only company that can actually produce and sell electric cars."
Should be a fun afternoon
Most analysts believe Tesla is going to need to raise cash to fund its many expensive projects. A strong quarter could make that a much easier raise or perhaps free Tesla from the capital markets altogether.
Citron continues its optimistic outlook with talk of 20 percent margins on half a million cars and a stock target of $599, adding, "Like a magic trick, while everyone is focused on Elon smoking weed, he is quietly smoking the whole automotive industry."
Should be a fun afternoon. We'll get you a report on Tesla's third-quarter earnings and Elon Musk's comments later today, after the close of the market.