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Tesla impresses skeptical Wall St analyst after Model 3 Performance test drive

One of Tesla’s most ardent bulls who adopted a more skeptical stance on the company earlier this year has seemingly been won over after a test drive in the Model 3 Performance. In a recent note, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote that the Model 3 Performance is impressive, being a vehicle that signifies a positive momentum for electric cars as a whole. 

In his note, Jonas stated that workers at the Fremont factory continue to be incredibly busy manufacturing the electric car to meet the demand for the vehicle in the United States. The Morgan Stanley analyst also pointed out that the Model 3 Performance seems to be the best bang-for-the-buck electric car in Tesla’s lineup, giving even more value-for-performance than the Model S 75D.

“Frankly, our enjoyment of the high-spec version of the Model 3 took us by surprise. It’s hard to say how much this matters. But it matters,” Jonas stated.

Overall, Jonas outlined several factors driving expectations for electric cars today, including positive regulatory initiatives in large markets such as China and Europe, the rising price of oil, as well as the increasing number of companies looking into electrified vehicles. These factors, particularly the regulatory initiatives from several regions across the globe, are starting to be felt by legacy carmakers, including Volkswagen AG, which recently expressed its reservations about the EU’s proposal to reduce emissions by 35% on or before 2030.

Morgan Stanley has historically adopted a bullish stance on Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA), though last May, Jonas cut the company’s price target from $376 to $291 – a 23% decrease. Jonas also slashed his long-term operating profit margin forecast for the electric car maker from 14.3% to 9.8%. Explaining his more conservative stance in a note, Jonas wrote that the “lingering manufacturing issues with the Model 3 – most recently at Fremont final assembly” could prevent Tesla from achieving its ambitious self-imposed targets. 

“The challenges in ramping up Model 3 production reflect fundamental issues of vehicle design, manufacturing process, and automation levels that can weigh against the profitability of the vehicle,” Jonas wrote.

Just last month, Jonas also released a note stating that Tesla would likely initiate an equity raise of $2.5 billion in Q4 2018. While the analyst did acknowledge the bull thesis that Tesla would not need to raise equity if it generates enough cash, Jonas nonetheless stated that “it is far better for a company to raise when it doesn’t need to.” Considering the Morgan Stanley analyst’s recent note, though, it appears that Adam Jonas might adopt a more optimistic outlook on Tesla once more.

Since ending Q3 2018 with a delivery blitz that resulted in a total of 83,500 vehicles being handed over to customers before September ended, Tesla appears to be going full throttle in its ongoing efforts to ramp the production of the Model 3. Even before Q3’s end, reports already emerged that Gigafactory 1 in Nevada is receiving upgrades in Q4, in the form of new Grohmann machines that can make “module production become three times faster, and three times cheaper.” New battery cell production lines from Panasonic, which were initially scheduled to go online by the “end of 2018,” are set to be completed earlier than expected as well.

Tesla has been mostly quiet about its progress this Q4 so far, but the company has been showing encouraging signs of a strong production ramp. In the first two weeks of October, for example, Tesla registered more than 30,000 new Model 3 VINs, including a record batch of more than 9,000 vehicles in one filing. In a recent announcement, Tesla CEO Elon Musk also revealed that despite the company’s restructuring earlier this year, Tesla now employs a workforce of around 45,000 employees.

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

Tesla impresses skeptical Wall St analyst after Model 3 Performance test drive
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