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Tesla shows open road to more losses in Q3

Tesla has announced its third quarter results. They show that revenues are down 31 percent from a year ago and that the car maker is losing nearly eight times as much money compared to the previous year.

This quarter, Tesla lost $34.9 million, up 7.6 times from the $4.6 million from a year earlier. At $250 million, the company has three times as much funding as it did last year. It also lost $150 million in investing activities. In a statement, the company pointed out that revenues were up compared to last quarter — a 10 percent increase from $28.4 million.

Right now, Tesla has $96.6 million on hand. If it continues to lose money at its current rate, the company can only operate for another three quarters without external financing.

Tesla is also spending a good deal more on research and development activities — this quarter, it burned through about $27 million, compared to just $1 million last year.¬†Could it also be getting less efficient? Its selling, general and administrative costs doubled to $20.4 million, compared to $10.7 million in the same quarter a year earlier.

Roadster orders increased 15 percent over last quarter and reached a new high since the third quarter of 2008. But revenue from sales of its Roadster were down 49 percent to $23.4 million, compared to $46 million a year ago in the same quarter.

“We are very pleased to report steady top-line growth and significant growth in gross margin, driven by the continued improvement in Roadster orders and our growing powertrain business,” said CEO Elon Musk in a company statement.

Part of the rise in Roadster sales, of course, comes from selling the Roadster convertible in summer months. Roadster sales will wind down in 2011 as the company focuses on gearing up the $42 million former NUMMI factory in Fremont for production of the Model S in 2012, which it says it is on track to do.

It’s been a quarter full of news for Tesla. It made its first recall of 439 Roadsters due to a potential fire hazard in the car’s wiring. The company recently announced a $30 million investment from Panasonic and also reached an agreement worth $60 million to electrify the Rav4 for Toyota, which also previously invested $50 million in the company.

Tesla has said in the past it will likely lose money until at least 2012. In this quarter alone, the company began selling the Roadster in five additional countries and opened a store in Paris. It also has store openings planned for Tokyo and Milan in the next quarter. Overall, Tesla has sold 1,300 Roadsters.