Investor's Corner

Tesla stock (TSLA) splits Wall St. as analysts weigh in on Model 3 sustainability

Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) has been characteristically volatile, to the point where CEO Elon Musk boldly declared during the company’s Q1 2018 earnings call that people who fear volatility should not invest in the company. With Tesla recently announcing the date of its Q2 2018 financial results and earnings call, the electric car maker is once more dividing Wall Street down the middle, with bulls and bears both reiterating their stance on the company’s performance.

Mott Capital Management LLC founder Michael Kramer recently noted that Tesla’s investors should prepare themselves for a wild ride, as his firm expects the company’s shares to rise or fall by as much as 17% over the next two months. According to Kramer, Tesla stock would likely trade anywhere between $265 to $375 over the next ~65 days. The Mott Capital founder also estimates that Tesla’s September options would likely see a lot of implied volatility on September, at roughly 50% — almost five times greater than the S&P 500’s implied volatility of 10%.

A key factor that would determine Tesla’s performance in the stock market for the next few months would be the Model 3 — a vehicle that Elon Musk aptly dubbed as a “bet-the-company” project. With Tesla attaining its Q2 2018 production target of manufacturing 5,000 Model 3 per week by the end of June, the electric car maker appears to be suggesting that its self-imposed “production hell” is about to end.

In a recent note, Argus Research analyst Bill Selesky backed the firm’s Buy rating for Tesla, placing a price target of $444 (a +36% upside potential) for the company’s stock. According to Selesky, Argus’ positive stance stands on an optimistic outlook for revenue gains from the Model S and X, as well as strong demand for the Model 3 sedan. The analyst further noted that while Tesla’s production figures for the Model 3 during the first quarter fell below its expectations, Argus believes that the company would show an improvement in the second quarter. Finally, Selesky stated that Model 3 production costs would likely diminish next year, enabling Tesla to achieve a healthy gross margin for the vehicle in late 2019.

“Although first quarter production of the Model 3 fell short of our forecast and management’s guidance, the company recently reached its 5,000 per week production target. As such, we expect significant sequential improvement in the second quarter. We expect the company to achieve its target gross margin of 25% on the Model 3 in late 2019, in line with the margins already achieved on the Model S and Model X,” Selesky wrote.

Needham & Co’s Rajvindra Gill, however, released a note downgrading Tesla to a Sell, citing an uptick in cancellations for Model 3 orders. According to the analyst, Needham’s estimates suggest that Tesla’s refund rate for the Model 3 has outpaced deposits for the electric car.  

“Based on our checks, refunds are outpacing deposits as cancellations accelerate. The reasons are varied: extended wait times, the expiration of the $7,500 credit, and unavailability of the $35k base model. In August ’17, TSLA cited a refund rate of 12%. Almost a year later, we believe it has doubled and outpaced deposits. Model 3 wait times are currently 4-12 months, and with base model not available until mid-2019, consumers could wait until 2020,” the analyst wrote.

Since the beginning of July, Tesla appears to have gone all-in on the Model 3, pushing the vehicle to buyers through test drive programs and initiatives such as a 5-minute Sign & Drive delivery system. Signs over the past weeks also indicate that Tesla is all but accelerating its Model 3 push for the third quarter, with more than 19,000 new VINs filed so far in July, and a 19% increase in hiring activity since the month started. A vote of confidence for the company’s profitability also came recently from Detroit, after teardown specialist Sandy Munro stated that the Model 3’s Long Range RWD variant could give Tesla a 36% profit. Munro also estimates that the $35,000 base Model 3 could still give the electric car maker a profit of 18%.

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

Tesla stock (TSLA) splits Wall St. as analysts weigh in on Model 3 sustainability
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