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Tesla loses $50 million in first quarter as costs rise

DETROIT - Electric car maker Tesla Motors (TSLA) lost $49.8 million in the first quarter as it accelerated the development of its new crossover.

Tesla's loss of 40 cents per share compared with a profit of 10 cents per share in the January-March period last year. Last year's first-quarter profit was the decade-old company's first ever profitable quarter.

Revenue grew 10 percent to $620.5 million in the latest quarter. Tesla said it produced a record 7,535 Model S sedans during the period and delivered 6,457 to customers.

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Still, the results fell far short of Wall Street's estimates. Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast a profit of 8 cents per share on revenue of $683.5 million.

Tesla's shares fell 8 percent to $185.51 in after-hours trading.

Research and development costs jumped 49 percent to $81.5 million as Tesla prepares to launch the Model X crossover next year and adapts the Model S for a growing number of international markets. Tesla plans to launch a right-hand-drive Model S in the United Kingdom in June and in Japan and Hong Kong later this summer.

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The Palo Alto, California-based company is also laying the groundwork for a battery factory that is expected to be complete in 2020. Tesla is considering sites in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Nevada, and will develop two possible sites simultaneously to minimize delays. But in a letter to shareholders, Tesla didn't say which states will get the nod.

Tesla also incurred costs to install additional safety equipment on its new and existing cars after the government began investigating two Model S battery fires. In both cases, road debris punctured an aluminum shield and the battery, touching off fires. Drivers were able to safely pull off the road and escape injury, but the cars were destroyed.

At no cost to owners, Tesla added an aluminum bar, a titanium plate and another piece of aluminum to stop road debris from entering the battery pack. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its investigation in March after Tesla said it would install the shields.

Tesla said it expects to deliver 7,500 Model S sedans in the second quarter, and reiterated its plan to sell more than 35,000 cars this year. The company also expects to increase production by 13 percent to 19 percent in the second quarter, to 8,500 to 9,000 cars.

Tesla said tight supplies of battery cells will constrain second-quarter production but should ease in the third quarter.

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