To say that the last few months have been a roller coaster ride for Tesla is an understatement. Just a few months ago, Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) was closing in on trading below $250 per share, and it was being bashed by a continuous stream of criticism from Wall Street. One analyst even called Tesla “no longer investable” due to Elon Musk’s behavior on Twitter. Short-sellers bet on a dramatic drop, with one stating that it was apparent “Tesla is having difficulties paying their bills.”
And yet, no dramatic drop happened. The company surprised Wall Street by posting $6.8 billion in revenue in the third quarter instead, and the stock has been up since then. Today, TSLA is trading near the $370 level, close to the highs it achieved on the day Elon Musk posted his now-infamous “funding secured” tweet. After a year of volatility, Tesla stock is up nearly 18% as of Wednesday’s close. That’s quite notable, considering that the S&P 500 is down 1.4% this year so far.
Apart from the company’s improving fundamentals, a good part of the Tesla narrative today is the company’s lead in the electric car market. One of the most notable bear thesis against the company is the notion that once legacy automakers decide to dip their feet into the production of EVs, Tesla would be overwhelmed and outgunned. Several automakers did release their first premium all-electric cars this year. But instead of overwhelming Tesla with their expertise (hence the term “Tesla Killer”), legacy auto’s first EVs have fallen short of the standards set by the Silicon Valley-based electric car maker.
In a recent note, Oppenheimer analyst Colin Rusch admonished traditional carmakers and their electric creations, stating that they present what could be described as a “slow and disappointing” competition for Tesla. JMP Securities analyst Joseph Osha was a bit more direct than Rusch, remarking that “It is incredible to me, at the end of 2018, that the major automakers still haven’t figured out how to respond competitively to Tesla.”
Tesla’s vehicles compete on the luxury segment, where brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi are reigning. This year, three notable premium electric cars emerged by legacy carmakers — the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the Audi e-tron, and the Jaguar I-PACE — and while each is an admirable vehicle on their own, the EVs themselves include flaws that make them inferior to Tesla. Both the EQC and the e-tron incited questions about their real range when the vehicles were unveiled, and the Jaguar I-PACE, despite being well-received by critics, is far less efficient than an older Tesla Model X.
Tesla’s lead in the electric car segment was even acknowledged by UBS, which has a history of taking a bearish stance on the electric car maker. Following a teardown of the vehicle and a comparison between the Model 3 and competitors like the BMW i3 and the Chevy Bolt, UBS concluded that instead of being the underdog in the EV market, “Tesla has won the race and leads the championship,” thanks to its superior battery, powertrain, and overall tech.
As Tesla approaches the end of what could be yet another impressive quarter, the company continues to garner votes of confidence from Wall Street. Just recently, Baird analyst Ben Kallo reiterated his “Outperform” rating on TSLA stock while raising his price target from $411 to $465. Kallo cited the strengthening narrative surrounding the company, which changed from negative to positive in recent months.
“We believe the narrative will continue to change from ‘TSLA will never make money’ to ‘TSLA can be sustainably profitable,'” Kallo wrote in a note Thursday. “The narrative on TSLA, particularly in the middle of 2018, was as negative as we have experienced in our coverage, but we believe sentiment will continue to improve as the company proves it can be self-supportive, which should drive sustained share appreciation,” Kallo wrote.
With competitors only highlighting Tesla’s lead in the EV market, the potential of Tesla in the global stage remains vast. The Model 3 alone, which continues to sell well despite the US’ preference for pickup trucks and SUVs, is expected to be popular in Europe, whose sedan market is notably larger than that of America. With these factors in play, as well as the absence of notable competition from fellow luxury carmakers in the near future, the next year could prove to be one impressive ride for Tesla.
As of writing, Tesla is trading +1.20% at $371.01 per share.
Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.