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Tesla beats expectations, thanks to some fun with accounting
Once again the electric car company destroys expectations — and bends the rules
Cool Tesla, brah.
Cool Tesla, brah. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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n the upstream race to make a profit off electric cars, Tesla Motors is still the fastest fish.

The California-based electric car maker on Wednesday afternoon reported a profit of $.20 per share off $405 million in revenue — once again defying expectations for a loss of $.19 per share on $387.9 million in revenue.

On top of that, Tesla ramped up production of the pricey Model S during the first quarter, making almost 500 cars a week, which is more than its own goal of 400. It expects to deliver 21,000 vehicles this year, which at $70,000 a pop isn't bad.

So how does a start-up electric car company deliver profits two quarters in a row, while bigger car companies are struggling to find a market for plug-ins?

Tesla reported its first quarterly profit in May of this year, and much of those earnings came from selling zero-emissions credits to other car makers, says CNBC.

This quarter's profits were the result of some accounting acrobatics. Tesla has a buyback program that allows customers financing their vehicles through a deal with Wells Fargo to essentially lease a Model S. In its earnings report, Tesla acted as if had received all the money up front. The maneuver does not fall under what is known as Generally Acceted Accounting Principles, and "by the most stringent GAAP accounting, the company reported a loss of 26 cents," says Mark Rogowsky at Forbes.

But in the case of Tesla, the non-GAAP measures are defensible, says Matt Yglesias at Slate.

The message of their non-GAAP number is that they're essentially on track. More people have Teslas than did a quarter ago, and Tesla has more money than it did a quarter ago. Whether you want to say that's "really" profitable or not, the bottom line is that Tesla has the financial resources to continue ahead with its strategy and that's what really counts. [Slate]

Investors don't seem worried. The stock price, which seems to know no bounds, is up 15 percent following the report. This year, Tesla's stock price has more than quadrupled to top $150, giving it a market value of about $17.15 billion, almost a quarter of Ford's, says The Wall Street Journal.

Carmel Lobello is the business editor at TheWeek.com. Previously, she was an editor at DeathandTaxesMag.com.

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