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Tesla becomes best selling premium automaker in US, topping BMW and Lexus

Tesla shares might have taken a big blow in the stock market after the company released its Q4 2018 production and delivery report yesterday, but the electric car maker has finished the past year with a flourish nonetheless. Tech research firm Atherton Research, for one, recently noted that by the end of 2018, Tesla had become the United States’ No. 1 premium automaker, surpassing more established rivals such as BMW.

Tesla delivered a record number of vehicles in the fourth quarter, including  63,150 Model 3, 13,500 Model S, and 14,050 Model X vehicles. That’s a total of 90,700 cars in three months, or roughly 1,000 vehicle deliveries per day, despite the company only selling the Model 3 to the US and Canada. Jean Baptiste Su, Vice-President and Principal Analyst at Atherton Research, noted in an article on Forbes that these numbers are enough to propel Tesla into the No. 1 spot in the US’ list of premium automakers.

Atherton Research expects BMW to report sales of about 80,000 cars and SUVs in the fourth quarter. While impressive, these numbers — provided that they prove to be accurate — are still 10,000 below Tesla’s Q4 2018 figures. BMW’s actual sales figures for the United States in the fourth quarter are expected to be released sometime in the coming days. According to the principal analyst, the same is true with premium carmaker Lexus. 

“I can confirm today that Tesla is officially the #1 premium automotive company in the U.S. outselling BMW and Lexus by a wide margin,” Su wrote.

Ultimately, Su noted that the gap between Tesla and its rivals in the premium auto segment appears to be widening, particularly as the electric car maker is poised to start delivering the Model 3 to regions such as Europe and China. The international rollout of the electric sedan is expected to positively affect Tesla’s figures, considering that Europe has a healthy passenger car market, and China’s government is actively pushing the adoption of electric cars.

As Tesla continues to barrel ahead with the Model 3’s international rollout, a number of Wall Street analysts have expressed their insights about the company in the coming quarters. Ben Kallo from Baird, for one, noted that while Tesla’s deliveries were a bit below consensus, concerns about the Model 3’s demand are “overblown.”

“Fourth-quarter deliveries were slightly below consensus, but shares are likely under pressure on an announced $2,000 price reduction, which may exacerbate concerns over moderating demand. We continue to believe demand concerns are overblown; we think the company has several levers to drive additional Model 3 sales, including shipping to international markets (expected in February), and the introduction of leasing options/lower cost variants. We think deliveries are more than sufficient to support strong quarterly results and we remain buyers,” he said.

Wedbush’s Daniel Ives, who has a $440 price target on TSLA stock, pointed out that while the phaseout of the $7,500 federal tax credit would likely affect the company’s shares in the market, Tesla still has a long way to go in its growth story.

“With the EV tax credit getting cut in half from $7,500 in 2018 to $3,750 beginning January 1, the lack of a significant pull forward was a bit of a surprise to the bulls in terms of fourth-quarter Model 3 deliveries and will weigh on shares accordingly. We remain bullish on the Tesla story given our view that the company is in the early innings of a transformational EV growth opportunity for the next decade although the modest Model 3 delivery miss this quarter in the near term will be the focus of investors and put pressure on shares,” he said. 

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

Tesla becomes best selling premium automaker in US, topping BMW and Lexus
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