Tesla is on the verge of a record quarter for car sales. That could put Elon Musk on track for his fourth multi-billion-dollar payday this year.

To set a record, Tesla would have to surpass the 112,000 cars it delivered to customers in the fourth quarter of last year. Since then, shutdowns of its factory in Fremont, California, during Covid-19 hampered its production and deliveries. But a recent email Musk sent to Tesla employees said that the sales record was in reach during the third quarter, which ends next week.

“We have a shot at a record quarter for vehicle deliveries, but will have to rally hard to achieve it. This is the most number of vehicles per day that we’ve ever had to deliver,” Musk said in the email first reported by Reuters, and confirmed by CNN.

“It’s also extremely important that we keep factory output as high as possible over the remaining 10 days,” he said. “This is vital for the California market.”

Big payday looms

Musk has frequently sent messages like this to employees urging them to meet end-of-quarter goals. This time he could have an extra incentive to get across the finish line.

Musk doesn’t receive any straight salary, but a pay package approved by shareholders in 2018 grants him as many as 101 million stock options when adjusted for the company’s recent stock split.

He’ll qualify for each of 12 blocks of options under the compensation plans when Tesla hits both an operational goal for earnings or revenue, and a target for average market value over a six-month period.

He has received the first two blocks of those options this year, each worth about $3.2 billion at today’s market value, after taking into account the exercise price of the options. Shares of Tesla have been among the best performers on US markets, climbing more than 400% so far this year, making it the world’s most valuable automaker despite sales a fraction of those of the major automakers.

In August Tesla confirmed that the company had already hit its third operational goal, meaning it was just a matter of the company hitting a $200 billion average market value to qualify for the third block of stock. While the company has not certified that third grant, the stock had a $220 billion average market value over the last six months. It’s possible that the company could confirm the third grant of stock as soon as its annual meeting Tuesday.

Although he doesn’t yet officially have that third block of options, the next distribution of options could be coming before the end of this year. This will be easier to achieve if sales are as strong as Musk’s email suggests, and if the stock price remains near current lofty levels.

The next operational goal would be an operating profit of $4.5 billion over the course of four consecutive quarters. It almost achieved that goal in the four quarters ending on June 30 of this year — it came in at $4.4 billion. A third quarter that achieves record sales would almost certainly get Tesla above the $4.5 billion threshold.

If Tesla ticks that box, it would then need to secure an average market value of $250 billion over a six month period for Musk to get his next options block. It has already had a $242 billion average since the middle of April, a fraction of the current $400 billion market value. So its share price could lose about 20% of its current value and it could still have a six-month average value of $250 billion by the middle of October.

Musk has yet to exercise either of the block of stock options he received in the past. That’s not unusual. Employees granted stock options generally don’t exercise them until they are about to expire, or unless they want to cash out by selling shares. And the options, even when exercised, will still be a fraction of Musk’s holdings in Tesla. He owns about 18% of the company already in shares already in his possession.

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