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    Tesla Posts Record Quarterly Earnings on Supply-Chain Resilience

    Tesla Inc. posted a second consecutive record quarterly profit, earning $1.62 billion in the third quarter despite the ongoing global semiconductor shortage and other supply-chain challenges.

    Revenue jumped 57 percent to $13.8 billion, and automotive gross margins rose to 30.5 percent.

    Executives expect strong demand for Tesla’s electric vehicles to propel growth futher even as it works to ramp up production at new assembly plants in Texas and Germany.

    Tesla was aided by $279 million in sales of regulatory credits to rivals, although that number fell for the second straight quarter.

    The automaker generated record global deliveries of 241,391 in the latest quarter, 73 percent more than a year earlier. Tesla said its average selling price decreased by 6 percent year over year as the lower-priced Model 3 sedan and Model Y crossover accounted for nearly all volume.

    “Overall I’m very proud of what the team has accomplished and I’m excited for the next phase of growth into Q4 and 2022,” CFO Zach Kirkhorn said on a call Wednesday with investors. “The team has done a tremendous job of improving our financial health over a short period of time while also continuing to improve our precision and pace of execution.”

    CEO Elon Musk did not join the call, as he has typically done in the past. He had mentioned last quarter that he would likely skip some calls in the future.

    Autopilot scrutiny

    Kirkhorn and other executives on Wednesday vowed to continue cooperating with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as the regulator examines the company’s Autopilot driver assist system.

    “Safety is extremely important for Tesla,” Kirkhorn said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

    Lars Moravy, vice  president  of vehicle engineering, noted the automaker was cooperating with the agency and will continue to provide information it requests on additional topics.

    “We’ll work through them one by one to make sure all the facts come out and that NHTSA is well-informed on what our strategy is for active safety and passive safety,” Moravy said.

    On Tuesday, Musk criticized Missy Cummings, a Duke University engineering and computer science professor, who was named by NHTSA as a new senior advisor for safety. “Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla,” Musk said on Twitter.

    NHTSA in August opened a formal safety probe into Tesla's Autopilot system in 765,000 U.S. vehicles after a series of crashes involving Tesla models and emergency vehicles.

    Kirkhorn said the automaker’s “safety score” system, which grades a customer’s driving performance and has been used to roll out its “Full Self Driving” driver-assist system to some beta-testers, is active on roughly 150,000 vehicles. He said the probability of a collision for those using the safety score system is roughly 30 percent lower than those who don’t.

    Kirkhorn said the company remained on track to achieve a goal of 50 percent year-over-year volume growth, although fourth-quarter production could be hampered by a number of factors, including the ongoing chip shortage or supply chain issues at ports around the U.S.

    He said Tesla planned to begin production at assembly plants in Texas and Germany before the end of the year, although the EV maker will not deliver vehicles from those factories until 2022. The company had previously said the Cybertruck, which will be built in Texas, would be out in late 2021 but has delayed those plans.

    Kirkhorn said Wednesday it would provide updates on changes to the pickup next year.

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