Tesla Model S

Tesla Motors offering real leases to small and medium businesses

Tesla Motors is launching a new subsidiary, Tesla Finance LLC, to handle leasing Tesla’s electric cars to small and medium sized businesses.  The new program is a separate focus from the pseudo-leasing financing that Tesla announced a year ago.  That program, focused on individuals, gave a lease-like purchasing option for the Model S.  The new program is a true leasing product, and is targeted to businesses.

The target for this is probably those companies that arrange luxury cars for their top managers.

At least that’s the obvious target.  But, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam announced today a plan for a taxi operation with 100 Tesla Model S’s.  An operation like that might like to lease their Model S’s.  That airport was the site of one of the few Better Place deployments outside Israel, for an electric taxi operation.

Here’s the information Tesla posted in an FAQ on the Investor Relations portion of their site:

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  • What is Tesla’s strategy in starting Tesla Finance? – We believe that a captive finance company is a natural extension of our strategy to offer great customer experience, including financing products important to customers. Consistent with this, Tesla Finance will offer a financing product that customers have been requesting but that has not available from our bank financing partners: a true leasing product intended for businesses. This will round-out the portfolio of financing options available to Tesla customers. This leasing program will be offered alongside traditional installment loan programs currently offered by our bank partners.
  • How will this program affect Tesla’s capital structure? – The leasing program is targeted just at small/medium-sized businesses and their owners, so volume is expected to be somewhat limited.
  • The leases will be funded with a combination of equity and a warehouse financing facility that will be announced shortly. Given Tesla’s solid cash position, strong cash flow from operations and the poor returns available on cash equivalents today, it makes sense for Tesla to use a portion of this cash to support growth by creating Tesla Finance now.
  • Should the program grow, it would be reasonable that additional layers of warehouse facilities would be added and eventually replaced with private and/or public asset-backed securitization transactions commonly utilized in the industry. Tesla has established the legal structures to support securitization transactions, but that approach is volume driven and not necessary until we begin to deploy Tesla’s capital to support the Gigafactory and Gen III initiatives in earnest.
  • How will Tesla account for the leased vehicles and how does that compare with other car companies? – Within the automotive industry, automakers typically sell their vehicles through a franchised dealer network in which sales to the independent dealers represent a full sale for GAAP purposes. Later, a portion of these same vehicles may be financed by the automakers’ financing affiliates where they also record the related leasing revenue. Since Tesla sells directly to customers, we cannot recognize full sales revenue for vehicles delivered under our captive leasing program. Therefore, we will not adjust our financials (GAAP or non-GAAP) to show leased vehicles as sold vehicles like we do for the Resale Value Guarantee program in our non-GAAP financials.
  • What info will Tesla disclose on these transactions? – To facilitate comparability with other automakers, we will include a supplemental quarterly and YTD table that summarizes the aggregate price of vehicles leased by Tesla. This should allow investors to evaluate the velocity of our vehicle business.
  • How will gross margins be impacted by the program? –  There will be no material impact to our gross margin in either GAAP or non-GAAP financials.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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