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Tesla shares up as company predicts 1Q profit

The Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Shares of electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. jumped more than 13 percent Monday after the company said sales are running ahead of schedule and it will post a first-quarter net profit.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company said Sunday night that first-quarter sales have exceeded 4,750 Model S sedans, above prior guidance of 4,500. Previously the company said it would be slightly profitable in the first quarter, excluding noncash option and warrant expenses.

Shares of Tesla were up $5.08, or 13.4 percent, to $42.97 in trading early Monday. Earlier the stock hit an all-time high of $43.46.

"There have been many car startups over the past several decades, but profitability is what makes a company real," Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk said in a statement. "Tesla is here to stay and keep fighting for the electric car revolution."

Tesla, the brainchild of Musk, who founded PayPal and SpaceX, was selling two all-electric models last year, the $109,000 Roadster and the Model S, which starts at $49,900 after a federal tax credit. The Roadster was phased out as the Model S went on sale. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the Model S can travel about 265 miles on a single charge.

Tesla has lost money since sales of the Roadster began in 2008, and the company is banking on the cheaper Model S to expand its market. But it said production costs should fall as it produces more vehicles.

The company lost $396.2 million, or $3.69 per share, last year, compared with $254.4 million, or $2.53 per share, in 2011.

In February, Musk said his company plans to pay back a 10-year, $465 million U.S. Energy Department loan in half the time required by the government.

But last week he hinted that payment may be coming even sooner. He said on Twitter that he is "going to put my money where my mouth is" in a major way. An announcement of some sort is coming on Tuesday.

Tesla made its first loan payment of nearly $13 million in December. A second payment is due this month.