Investor's Corner

Tesla’s impending made-in-China Model 3 assault should scare critics

(Photo: Tesla)

Earlier today, Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) received yet another negative outlook from Wall Street. This time around, it was Barclays analyst Brian Johnson, who reduced his price target for TSLA to a very conservative $133 per share. According to the analyst, his low price target is due to demand for the Model 3 stagnating in the United States and the company lacking a path to significant profitability.

Such a conclusion, which is likely driven by Tesla’s lower-than-expected numbers in the first quarter, is shortsighted at best and flat-out inaccurate at worst. There is an elephant in the room with all the negativity surrounding Tesla’s capability to survive and thrive this year, and it comes in the form of a gargantuan factory whose shell was all but completed in the span of five months in Shanghai. Tesla is poised to start producing the Model 3 at Gigafactory 3 later this year, and this development could shift the winds back in the electric car maker’s favor.

The potential of Gigafactory 3 or the advantages it could give Tesla has been strangely absent in a notable number of critical analysis surrounding the electric car maker as of late. Considering the negative narrative surrounding Tesla and Elon Musk today, this is no surprise. Tesla critics appear to have largely dismissed Gigafactory 3’s progress, as exhibited by skeptics describing the site mostly as a pile of dirt with some digging going on (videos of which are still being distributed today). Such statements have not been accurate since work took off in the Gigafactory 3 site.

Gigafactory 3 as of May 26, 2019. (Credit: Jason Yang/YouTube)

Refusing to acknowledge Gigafactory 3’s impending operations, or discounting its capability to help Tesla’s numbers, could be a grave mistake for the company’s critics. Industry experts that actually deal with China on a regular basis, after all, have expressed their belief that Model 3s produced in Gigafactory 3 will be no joke. Take Michael Dunne, the CEO of consultancy firm ZoZo Go, for example. In a recent appearance at Autoline This Week, Dunne noted that Gigafactory 3’s presence would most definitely be a difference maker for Tesla.

“(They’re the) first foreign company to be allowed to own 100% of their operation. They’re in Shanghai. Shanghai will want to make sure they’re a success. The government will make sure that they’ve got their plant built in time and they have everything working. And on top of it all, Chinese consumers really do like the Tesla brand and really admire Elon Musk. So you’ve got a premium market — 2 million units a year — you have the government wanting electrics to succeed, and you’ve got a very strong American brand. So they’d be one to bet on,” Dunne said.

Dunne’s points are largely missed by the persistent “no demand” narrative surrounding Tesla in the United States today. It should be noted that Dunne holds a notable amount of experience with China’s automotive sector, as well, making him an authority on the subject. And it’s not just Dunne either. Automotive teardown expert Sandy Munro, who quite literally analyzed every nut and bolt in the Model 3, previously noted that Elon Musk could make a “gazillion bucks” in China if Tesla sets up Gigafactory 3’s production systems right. “I guarantee it,” Munro said during an appearance at Autoline After Hours. Munro later remarked that a Standard Model 3 produced in Gigafactory 3 could generate 25% gross margins for Tesla.

Tesla is poised to start producing the Model 3 at Gigafactory 3 later this year. (Credit: Vincent Yu/Twitter)

If there are any valid concerns about Tesla’s Gigafactory 3 operations, it would be on the electric car maker’s capability to set up the facility on time for its target initial vehicle production date, not on the market’s demand for the vehicle. Contrary to what analysts such as Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas have noted (Jonas recently pointed out during an investor call that Tesla is no longer a growth story, and that it is more of a “distressed credit and restructuring story”), it appears that there is still much growth left for the company. It’s just not happening in the United States at present. Between the statements of the Morgan Stanley analyst, who likely looks at the company’s short-term numbers, and Michael Dunne, who is immersed in China’s automotive sector by trade, one would likely be inclined to believe the latter.

Just as Tesla stock experienced a steep drop due to a perfect storm of lower-than-expected Q1 deliveries, negative analyst sentiments, misinformation, and sheer bad luck (such as the company’s delivery troubles in China during the first quarter), the electric car maker might be poised to experience yet another perfect storm with the impending completion of Gigafactory 3. With the Chinese government rooting for its success, and with customers in the country still perceiving the company and its vehicles in a positive light, the electric car maker’s made-in-China Model 3 push might prove once more that it is never wise to underestimate Tesla, and Elon Musk for that matter.

Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.

Tesla’s impending made-in-China Model 3 assault should scare critics
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