Investor's Corner

Tesla gets $420 price target over Model 3 efficiencies, “limited impact” from rivals

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) recently received another vote of confidence from a prestigious Wall Street research firm. In a recent note, CFRA, an independent investment research company, stated that it was raising its price target for Tesla stock to $420 per share — the same amount that Elon Musk quoted earlier this year during his short-lived attempt at taking Tesla private.

CFRA analyst Garrett Nelson maintained the firm’s “Buy” rating on the company, despite the electric car market likely becoming far more competitive next year with the arrival of high-profile vehicles like the Porsche Taycan. In a note on Tuesday, Nelson stated that there would likely be “limited impact” from competition, particularly as Tesla is poised to undercut rival carmakers with the rollout of the highly-anticipated $35,000 base Model 3. The CFRA analyst’s updated $420 price target is an 11% increase from the firm’s previous PT of $375.

“We expect unit costs to continue to fall, reflecting improved operating efficiencies and fixed cost absorption,” Nelson wrote.

The CFRA analyst’s optimistic outlook bodes well for Tesla, particularly as the company has reached a point in Model 3 production where the key focus is now cost reduction and further optimizations, not simple manufacturing numbers. In his note on Tuesday, Nelson stated that he expects the production cost of the $35,000 Model 3 to drop as Tesla achieves more efficiences. If Tesla can achieve this next year, the CFRA analyst stated that the Model 3 could very well undercut its rivals in the EV market.

Apart from Model 3 efficiencies, the CFRA analyst further remarked that the “tariff truce” between the US and China would likely have a positive effect on Tesla’s business in the Asian economic superpower. Such developments, according to Nelson, would probably have “positive gross margin implications” for the electric car maker.

China is among the largest markets for electric cars in the world, with EV sales in the country expected to breach the 1 million mark this year. Tesla has established its reputation in China as a maker of premium electric vehicles, and the company’s brand has remained quite strong over the years. That said, the trade war between the United States and China, which saw a steep 40% tariff placed on vehicles like the Model S and Model X, forced Tesla to compete against locally-made EVs at a disadvantage. With the 40% tariffs in place, a fully-loaded Model S P100D, which costs around $147,000 in the United States, was priced at 1.47 million yuan ($221,937) in China.

Amidst the “tariff truce” reached by US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, though, there is a good chance that the steep 40% tariff on Tesla’s electric cars would get lifted, if not significantly reduced. Such an adjustment actually happened earlier this year, when China briefly reduced import tariffs from 20-25% to just 15%. The adjustment was met with enthusiasm among electric car buyers, resulting in a Tesla store in Shanghai clearing out its Model X 75D inventory in 24 hours.

With better headwinds in China and even more breakthroughs in Model 3 production, the coming year would likely be even more historic for Tesla. That said, it remains to be seen how investors would react to CFRA’s adjusted TSLA price target, as trading is suspended on Wednesday due to former president George HW Bush’s funeral.

As of Tuesday’s close, Tesla stock was trading at $359.70 per share.

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

Tesla gets $420 price target over Model 3 efficiencies, “limited impact” from rivals
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