Tesla shares ended trading nearly 7 percent lower.
The sales figures were a report card on a year in which its chief executive, Elon Musk, said, “We’ve gone from production hell to delivery logistics hell.” For the first six months of 2018, Tesla struggled to work the kinks out of its Model 3 production lines, and at times was unable to make more than a handful per day.
Mr. Musk acknowledged the production system relied too much on automated machinery that was ill suited to certain precision tasks and had to be removed and replaced by human workers. The company also set up a third assembly line in a giant tent outside its factory in Fremont, Calif. Finally, in the second half of 2018, its average weekly production rose to more than 4,000 cars a week, although that was still below its target of 5,000.
Tesla ran into trouble delivering the thousands of cars that were rolling off its assembly lines, leaving hundreds of new Model 3s parked in inventory lots in California and other states as the company scrambled to match cars with customers and ship them across the country. Mr. Musk said at one point that Tesla was beginning to make its own auto-hauling trailers to speed deliveries, and later asserted that the company had acquired three trucking companies, although Tesla has not released their names or any details of the transactions.
Despite the difficulties, deliveries soared in the third quarter, and the company reported a profit of $312 million, easing concerns about its finances. And even with the decline in Tesla’s shares Wednesday, investors still give the company a higher market value than any of Detroit’s established automakers.
In the fourth quarter, Tesla rushed to ship as many cars as possible to ensure that customers could take advantage of the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric cars that was available to Tesla buyers. Under the rules of the program, the credit begins to phase out two quarters after a manufacturer’s cumulative sales reach 200,000 electric vehicles. Since Tesla crossed that threshold in July, the tax credit available to Tesla buyers fell to $3,750 on Jan. 1. It falls again on July 1, to $1,875, and ends on Jan. 1, 2020.