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Tesla to deliver Model S sedan early; stock jumps

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk drives a Model S, the company's first full-size electric sedan, at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California Octob
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk drives a Model S, the company's first full-size electric sedan, at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California Octob

By Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc will start delivering its Model S sedan to customers next month, slightly earlier than the electric carmaker had previously projected and a sign of progress for Tesla's most crucial launch yet.

Shares of Tesla shot up 8 percent in trading after the market. The stock closed at $30.06 on the Nasdaq.

Tesla has described 2012 as a "year of two halves" with the Model S launch as the dividing line. Ninety percent of the company's revenue this year will come from the sedan.

Once Tesla finishes crash tests required by U.S. safety regulators, Tesla can begin delivering the sedan to customers in June, slightly ahead of its previous target of July.

"Tesla is entering one of the riskiest moments of its company's history, so anything that supports an on-time launch should be viewed with some relief," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said in a research note.

Tesla said it has adopted a "slow, methodical" approach to the launch and expects to deliver 5,000 Model S sedans by the end of 2012. Reservations for the sedan have topped 10,000.

"Once we complete and document the tests, we will be able to sell our vehicles in the United States," Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a letter to shareholders.

Tesla also draws revenue from its partnerships with Toyota Motor Co's <7203.T> and Daimler AG . In February, Tesla announced an expanded deal with Daimler to create an electric powertrain for a new Mercedes Benz EV.

Tesla also makes the powertrain system for the electric Toyota RAV4. Toyota, which unveiled the model earlier this week, said it projects to sell 2,600 of the sport-utility vehicle over the next three years in the United States.

Toyota will wait to test the appetite for the all-electric SUV before expanding the partnership, Musk said. But he added: "The odds of scaling up are good."

Also on Wednesday, Tesla reported a first-quarter net loss of $89.9 million, or 86 cents per share, compared to $48.9 million or 51 cents per share a year earlier.

Revenue was $30.2 million, down from $49 million last year, reflecting the end of Roadster sales in North America. Tesla expects revenue in the second quarter will be on par with the first quarter.

The earlier-than-expected delivery date for the Model S prompted Tesla to lift is revenue outlook by $10 million. It expects full-year revenue between $560 million and $600 million. Earlier, it expected at least $550 million in revenue.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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