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Tesla's bullish production outlook drives stock higher

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks about new Autopilot features during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

By Alexandria Sage and Devika Krishna Kumar

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) promised to speed up production of its electric cars after a strong rollout of its Model X SUV, lifting its stock by more than 9 percent even as it posted its biggest loss in 10 quarters.

Orders are accelerating for both the luxury crossover Model X and the 3-year-old Model S sedan, the company said on Tuesday. It estimated shipping 17,000 to 19,000 vehicles in the current quarter, up from 11,603 in the third quarter.

"We don't see any fundamental obstacle to achieving the production rate of several hundred (vehicles) per week sometime next month," Chief Executive Elon Musk said.

Investors were relieved that orders of the X were not cutting into those of the S, said analyst Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer of Tigress Financial Partners.

"The X is selling well. It's not a cannibalizing car," he said. "This year the stock still has a cult following, people who love the man and the cars and the company."

The stock rose to $227.40 in extended trading, after ending 2.5 percent lower at $208.35. As of the close, it was down 26 percent from a 12-month peak of $282.26 on July 20.

Tesla said economies of scale, lower material costs and other factors would help them improve gross margin to over 30 percent on the S and X models within 18 months.

But Tesla lowered the range of vehicles it expected to deliver this year, to 50,000-52,000, from the 50,000-55,000 it projected last quarter.

Tesla started delivering the Model X Signature series, a premium version of the SUV, late in September. The Model 3, a mass-market vehicle expected to be priced at about $35,000, is due to be unveiled in March, but may take about two years to be in production, the company said.

Tesla will tweak its trial autopilot feature in the wake of online videos showing drivers doing things like reading a newspaper while using the system.

"I do want to emphasize we discourage the crazy videos on YouTube," Musk told analysts on a conference call. "We will be putting some additional constraints on when autopilot can be activated to minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with that."

Tesla's net loss widened to $229.9 million, or $1.78 per share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30 from $74.7 million, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier. (http://bit.ly/1HpuA9R)

Total revenue rose 10 percent to $936.8 million.

Excluding items, Tesla had a loss of 58 cents per share, more than the 50 cents estimated by analysts in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.

Tesla said Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja, who announced his retirement earlier this year, will be replaced by former Google Inc (GOOG.O) executive Jason Wheeler.

Capital expenditures will be lower in 2016 after this year's intense spending to develop the Model X and build Tesla's sprawling Gigafactory battery plant in Nevada, it said.

But in the fourth quarter, the company plans to invest about $500 million in the factory and other manufacturing activities, more than the $394 million in the third quarter.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco and Devika Krishna Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Kirti Pandey, Stephen R. Trousdale and Richard Chang)