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A Tesla Model S drives along a row of occupied superchargers at Tesla's factory in Fremont, Calif., on May 12, 2020.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

Tesla Inc. outpaced analyst estimates for second-quarter vehicle deliveries on Thursday, defying a trend of plummeting sales in the wider auto industry as coronavirus-linked lockdown orders kept shoppers at home, and sending its shares up 8 per cent.

The unexpected delivery numbers come a day after Tesla became the highest-valued automaker, surpassing the market capitalization of former front-runner Toyota Motors Corp .

The rally on Thursday further widens Tesla’s lead over legacy automakers as investors grow confident in its ability to define the industry’s electric and software-driven future.

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Shares surged by about US$85 in early trading to US$1,204.

Analysts said the solid delivery numbers heightened expectations for a profitable second quarter, which would mark the first time in Tesla’s history that it would report four consecutive quarters of profit.

“A 90k delivery number in this COVID lockdown environment is a jaw dropper,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note.

Tesla delivered 90,650 vehicles during the quarter, significantly above estimates for 74,130 vehicles, according to Refinitiv data. It delivered 80,050 units of its new Model Y sport utility vehicle and Model 3 for the quarter.

The company did not break out deliveries by model or country, but Chinese vehicle registrations showed accelerating consumer demand for the Model 3 sedan. Nearly 16,200 Teslas were registered in China in April and May combined, with June figures still outstanding.

The company is also ramping up output at its Shanghai vehicle factory, where it aims to produce 150,000 vehicles by the end of this year. The Shanghai plant was only briefly affected by coronavirus shutdowns in late January and early February.

Tesla’s only U.S. vehicle factory – in California, where the bulk of its vehicles is currently produced – was shut down for some six weeks during the quarter, heeding local orders to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. While vehicle deliveries increased 2.5 per cent on a quarterly basis, production dropped nearly 20 per cent.

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“While our main factory in Fremont was shut down for much of the quarter, we have successfully ramped production back to prior levels,” the automaker said in a statement.

Tesla in January said 2020 vehicle deliveries should comfortably exceed 500,000 units, a forecast the company has left unchanged despite the pandemic.

Tesla is now seeking a location for a second U.S. vehicle factory to build its Model Y and a new electric pickup truck, zeroing in on Tulsa, Okla., and Austin, Tex.

Other major automakers posted lower U.S. monthly or quarterly new vehicle sales on Wednesday owing in large part to weak fleet orders, but said consumer demand remained robust despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

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