Tesla’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) automotive operation in China has Morgan Stanley analysts taking bullish and bearish stances. A new note from the Wall Street firms indicates short-term growth and possible electric vehicle sector domination. However, long-term perspectives align with past Morgan Stanley outlooks that hint toward Tesla’s decline and subsequent inferiority in the Chinese market.
Following the news of Tesla vehicles being banned in military or government facilities late last week, Morgan Stanley released a new note that revealed several important metrics that could be affected by the ban. The firm’s short-term outlook seems bullish, especially as it highlights the advantages Tesla holds financially in China and its popularity with Chinese car buyers, who have flocked to the company’s all-electric vehicles since first being delivered in early 2020.
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“We estimate well over 50 to 60% of Tesla’s global profitability is currently derived from China,” Morgan Stanley analysts revealed as the first of seven points in the note. Giga Shanghai, Tesla’s Chinese production facility, is currently producing 450,000 vehicles annually, the company said in its most recent Shareholder Deck. While some of those vehicles are being exported to Europe to help supplement the Fremont factory’s production, most of them stay in China to help feed the overwhelming demand that has been sustained through consumer loyalty. Tesla has done a great job of expediting production timeframes to keep up with healthy demand. It surely is helping fuel the company’s profitability, which has spanned through the six previous quarters.
Additionally, Morgan Stanley stated that it “believes automobiles will transform into a transportation utility, where companies will fight for a winner-take-most network at a regional/national level.”
With Tesla dominating 2020 EV sales in China, mostly in part to the Model 3 that held 11% of the total market share, the company sits in a prime position to dominate the market for years to come. While the Wuling HongGuang Mini EV has outsold the Model 3 for several months, it isn’t easy to compare the two vehicles. Price, range, performance, and luxury are all incomparable because the Model 3 dominates nearly every category except for the price. While the HongGuang Mini EV is more affordable because it is only $4,500, it is undoubtedly a budget vehicle. It has just over 100 miles of range, and standard features, like air conditioning, will run consumers an extra $500.
While some of Morgan Stanley’s new note gave off bullish tones, several points came off bearish, especially one point that seemed to align with analyst Adam Jonas’ prediction that Tesla would not sell a car in China by 2030.
“We forecast Tesla China volume peaking in the year 2027 at just under 900k units and declining from there,” the note said. “Beyond 2030, our implied growth rate and terminal valuation of Tesla’s China business includes a significantly diminished contribution from China.”
In October 2020, Jonas said that Tesla’s raging success in China would come to an end. “We have China sales peaking [in the] middle of the decade and then going down…and then eventually nothing after 2030,” Jonas said to Yahoo Finance. Interestingly, Jonas’s prediction was mostly based on the fact that the U.S. government would likely not want Chinese autonomous vehicles traveling around the country. This situation is extremely similar to the ban China put on Tesla vehicles entering military and government-owned facilities last week.
“Can you imagine a Chinese internet of cars autonomous network operating in the streets of Boston in 10 years? Of course not. Wake up. It’s not happening,” Jonas added. “And so this idea that the Chinese aren’t allowed to use AI network machine learning data privacy networks from the state, but it’s okay for us to do [it] there, is just a fallacy in our opinion.”
It seems like a longshot that Tesla will simply dissolve into nothing in China by 2030. However, Jonas believes that rising tensions between the U.S. and China could point toward privacy taking priority, and autonomous vehicles will raise suspicion that they could be used as spy devices. If this were to happen in 9 years, Tesla would lose a considerable chunk of its profitability because of China’s influence on the company’s financials. However, this remains to be seen, and many Tesla bulls believe that the company holds a long future in China that could spell trouble for competing automakers for years to come.
Disclosure: Joey Klender is a TSLA Shareholder.