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Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Contributor/Getty Images

Tesla had a good night, and now the question is whether it's a new day for the pioneering but volatile automaker that kicked off the push to move electric vehicles toward the mainstream.

Driving the news: Tesla surprised Wall Street with a $143 million third-quarter profit on Wednesday evening, and announced plans to ramp up vehicle production at its China factory sooner than expected.

  • The results sent the stock surging by over 20% in after-market trading. It was still up by 18% when the market opened Thursday.
  • The company also announced that deliveries of its Model Y SUV crossover will launch next summer, ahead of schedule.

What they're saying, via AP: Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives called it a "jaw dropper," adding, "The Street wanted profitability and Tesla delivered in big fashion."

Why it matters: Tesla's recent cash-losing streak is over, though the company turned a bigger profit in 2018's Q3 with $311 million, and the company talked up its cost-controlling efforts.

  • However, Tesla also saw its first annual revenue drop since 2012, as it sells more of its lower-priced Model 3 vehicles and fewer higher-priced models.

But, but, but: Tesla has yet to prove it can be consistently profitable, and it's facing rising competition as legacy automakers and startups alike roll out new electric models.

  • And the company has already reached the ceiling for consumers to use the full $7,500 tax credit, which is limited to 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer, and phases down from there. That could give a price edge to competitors that can still take advantage of the incentive.
  • "We think questions remain regarding the sustainability of these results, particularly as EV competition ramps up and its tax credit goes away," CFRA analyst Garrett Nelson tells MarketWatch.

Go deeper

California father and son accused of "reckless arson" in Calder Fire

Firefighters at the Caldor Fire along Highway 89 west of Lake Tahoe, California, in September. Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California officials said they arrested a father and son Wednesday on suspicion of starting the Caldor Fire, which threatened the Lake Tahoe area as it burned for over two months earlier this year. They deny any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: The wildfire was the 15th-biggest ever recorded in California, razing more than 1,000 structures, forcing thousands to evacuate and injuring five people as it burned across nearly 222,000 acres of land in El Dorado, Amador and Alpine counties.

New Zealand aims to create smoke-free generation with tobacco ban

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a December news conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand officials announced Thursday legislative plans to outlaw smoking by making it illegal to sell or supply tobacco products to the next generation as part of a lifetime ban.

Why it matters: "People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco," Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said in a statement announcing the proposed law, part of the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan.

FDA approves AstraZeneca COVID drug for people with immune problems

Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for an AstraZeneca COVID-19 antibody drug for people with compromised immune systems.

Why it matters: The drug, Evusheld, is the first antibody therapy authorized in the U.S. to prevent coronavirus symptoms before virus exposure.