The WSJ quoted the company as confirming it is seeking price reductions for projects, some of which date back to 2016.
"The Silicon Valley electric auto company said it is asking its suppliers for cash back to help it become profitable, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that was sent to a supplier last week".
It's not clear how many suppliers were asked to hand back money, with some saying they weren't aware of the request, the newspaper said. The company has been burning cash at worrying rates, with US$1 billion spent during the first quarter of this year alone.
It's not so unusual for carmakers to ask suppliers for discounts retroactively, and some Japanese automakers have done it before, said Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst at Sawakami Asset Management Inc.in Tokyo, who worked at Nissan Motor Co. between 1983 and 1999.
Chief executive and top shareholder Elon Musk has said that Tesla intends to become profitable in the second half of 2018, and analysts said Monday that the memo is an attempt to meet that goal.
Tesla is spending about $1 billion a quarter as it ramps up manufacturing of the Model 3 sedan, a lower-priced vehicle that is key to Tesla's plans of becoming a major mass-market automaker.
The report also said it's not clear how many suppliers received the request.
He wrote early Monday: "Only costs that actually apply to Q3 & beyond will be counted".
As pressure mounted to ramp up Model 3 production, Musk set up a tent outside Tesla's plant in Fremont, California. Musk has pushed back on naysayers, arguing that the company will be profitable this quarter and next.
Last month, Tesla allowed all existing Model 3 deposit holders to order their cars, which required those buyers interested in the offer to give the company an additional, non-refundable $2,500 deposit, which some observers saw as another way for Tesla to pull revenue forward. The firm is less focused on one-time reductions for this quarter as it is on reaching a "more sustainable long-term cost basis".