Investor's Corner

Tesla (TSLA) dips as Cowen predicts $210 price, Model 3 'demand saturation'

Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) dropped on Monday amid the release of a bearish note from Cowen, which predicted that the electric car maker’s stock price is poised to be halved, and that the Model 3 is experiencing “demand saturation.” On the heels of Cowen’s note, TSLA shares dropped by as much as 4.9%, before seemingly leveling out at around 4% as of writing. 

In a note dated December 29, one day before Tesla China held an inaugural delivery for the first 15 Made-in-China Model 3 at Gigafactory 3, Cowen analyst Jeffrey Osborne stated that he expects the electric car maker to miss its 2019 delivery guidance of 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles. According to Osborne, Tesla may deliver only 356,000 cars instead. The analyst also predicted that Model 3 deliveries would be down quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year in Q4 2019, due to what he described as “demand saturation” for the vehicle. 

“Excluding the Netherlands and China, we expect Model 3 deliveries to be down 9% quarter over quarter and 7% year over year in the fourth quarter, which highlights the demand saturation we are seeing across most mature markets as we shift from pent-up demand to steady flow demand,” Osborne wrote. 

While the Cowen analyst adjusted his delivery estimate for Q4 2019 to 101,000 vehicles from his initial 95,000 estimate, the analyst nevertheless insisted that Tesla’s expansion into China is likely overestimated. The analyst stated that he remains skeptical about Tesla and the Model 3’s long-term demand in China, primarily since the best-selling car in the country, the BAIC EU Series, has sold less than 2,000 vehicles per week as of late. He also cited Tesla’s alleged poor build quality and service issues as headwinds that the company will face in China. 

“BAIC’s EU Series has sold less than 2,000 vehicles per week and the top 5 models (all local brands) combined for less than 6,000 vehicles per week. Those models all cost about one-quarter to three-quarters less than what the China-made Model 3 is expected to cost. While Tesla has built a very dedicated fan base that has been willing to excuse poor build quality, customer service, and service infrastructure, we continue to be skeptical around broader adoption,” he noted. 

Cowen has given TSLA stock an “Underperform” rating and a price target of $210 per share. That implies a 50% decrease from the stock’s recent levels

Overall, Cowen’s points against Tesla that were related in Osborne’s recent note echoed much of the older and rather outdated bearish narratives against the electric car maker. Recent reports from China indicate that all vehicles produced in Gigafactory 3 are sold to customers, and speculations are abounding that the massive electric car facility is now producing cars at a rate beyond 1,000 per week. Tesla’s quality issues are also an issue that the company’s China team had seemingly taken as a personal challenge, emphasizing the MIC Model 3’s stellar build quality when the vehicle was initially unveiled to the media. 

Thus, inasmuch as Cowen’s sentiments may be valid, there is also a good chance that Osborne’s concerns about the company, particularly with regards to Model 3 demand in China, will be proven wrong in the coming quarters. For now, 15 analysts tracked by Bloomberg rate TSLA stock with the equivalent of a “Sell,” 11 rates the company with a “Buy,” and another 10 recommend a “Hold.” The average price target for Tesla stock is currently at $297 per share.

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

Tesla (TSLA) dips as Cowen predicts $210 price, Model 3 'demand saturation'
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