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Nonetheless, Model S and Model X deliveries were up 9 percent from their third-quarter totals, pushing Tesla over the six-figure mark for annual deliveries for the first time in its history.

During the forth quarter of the year, the company delivered 29,870 cars, with 15,200 of those being the Model S and 13,120 made up of Model Xs.

Caldwell said that the Model 3 delay also "definitely doesn't help" Tesla's case with bankers and investors should it need to raise additional cash for its operations, but that Tesla was "still in a reasonable period of expectations" for eventually reaching its production goals. "The company initially planned to make 5,000 units a week by the end of a year ago".

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Tesla shares were down more than 1% following the news.

The company said it has made "major progress" toward eliminating Model 3 production bottlenecks.

Tesla has been blowing through more than $1 billion in cash a quarter as it's had trouble scaling up Model 3 output despite spending heavily on the robots, assembly lines and tooling needed to produce them. Tesla now expects to end the first quarter producing about 2,500 Model 3 cars per week and reach the 5,000-car per week milestone by the end of the second quarter.

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In the months leading up to efforts to get the Model 3 up to speed, Tesla raised at least US$1.2b through an offering of stock and convertible bonds in March and another US$1.8b by tapping the debt market in August. "We have them hovering about $1 billion in cash".

Those older models appear to still be selling well, according to Tesla. The Wall Street Journal reported a year ago that the cars were being built partly by hand as the company struggled with its automated body-panel assembly line. The quarterly total is a 27% year-on-year rise, a 9% quarter-on-quarter increase and also the company's new all-time best quarter for S and X deliveries. Quality control obviously matters - nobody wants his or her vehicle of the future to be a buggy mess, a "lemon" in old-world parlance - but quality control and mass production have been happy bedfellows for literally decades, since Toyota revolutionized auto manufacturing in the 1970s and '80s.

"Musk has a long pattern of missing production and financial targets set not just years ahead but a few months ahead". However, the automaker has been battling production problems since early in the Model 3 production process.

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Even with mass production, Tesla will face other challenges in the highly-saturated mainstream auto market. The organization said that over the most recent couple of days of the quarter it achieved a creation rate that "extrapolates to more than 1,000 Model 3's for every week".