Tesla shares sink as vehicle deliveries drop

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Tesla and Elon Musk have a busy April ahead of them: Tesla's Q1 cash flow and financial performance will be revealed in its earnings letter, expected at the end of the month.

But the SEC is asking for the judge to drop the hammer on Musk after he tweeted on February 19 that his electric auto company expects to produce around 500,000 Model 3 electric vehicles in 2019 - only to update the tweet four hours later to explain that the 500,000 figure was actually an annualized production rate. Analysts had predicted Tesla would come closer to replicating third-quarter results, but the quarterly delivery figure fell short of even their tempered expectations.

In other Elon Musk news, in November previous year he inspired Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes to release a Musk-inspired jacket, through his label Drop Dead clothing. But Musk didn't have the funding secured.

The SEC said pre-approval was a core element of the October 2018 settlement, which resolved a lawsuit over a tweet last August 7 where Musk said he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private at $420 per share.

Noting that Musk had called his $20 million fine "worth it", she said higher fines for future violations might be needed to ensure that further backsliding would be "not worth it".

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Tesla's share price tumbled almost 9% after the electric carmaker warned on profits following a 31% drop in vehicle deliveries during the first quarter.

Attorney John Hueston, representing Musk, told the judge the SEC had failed to show his client had violated the deal. We reaffirm our prior guidance of 360,000 to 400,000 vehicle deliveries in 2019.

Musk, whose attorneys were set to appear in federal court Thursday as the Securities and Exchange Commission tries to persuade a judge to hold him in contempt over unauthorized tweets, alluded to the delivery problems in the company's last quarterly earnings call, Tesla noted.

In its first-ever safety report, released last October, Tesla said that in the second quarter of 2018, it registered one crash or near-miss for every 3.34 million miles driven on Autopilot, and one for every 1.92 million miles when it wasn't engaged.