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Tesla dips amid ‘meager’ Model 3 demand claims despite TSLA’s China, Europe push

Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) dropped to nearly 5-month lows on Monday, trading as low as $256.02 per share, the lowest since October 22, 2018. The drop in the electric car maker’s shares transpired amidst Wall St’s continued concerns over alleged Model 3 demand issues and Elon Musk’s recent initiative to raise the price of Tesla’s inventory vehicles by ~3%.

RBC analyst Joseph Spak recently cut his price target for Tesla shares by $35 to $210 each in a note published on Monday. Spak trimmed his Q1 2019 Model 3 delivery forecasts to 52,500. This number is 4,500 less than Spak’s previous estimates over what he cited as “meager demand” for the electric sedan. Apart from Spak, JMP Securities analyst Joseph Osha lowered his price target for Tesla by 3% to $394 per share. Osha cites the US market’s weakness and Tesla’s closing of its galleries as among the drivers behind his more conservative stance, though the analyst noted that JMP continues to believe in Tesla’s long-term narrative.

“As we have moved through the first part of 2019, it is becoming apparent that Tesla’s efforts to pull demand into 4Q before the federal tax credit expired worked well, perhaps better than the company had planned. Indeed, based on our analysis we are not sure that U.S. demand will return to 4Q18 levels at any point this year. It is worth reiterating that our investment stance on Tesla has always been based on the potential the company has to make competitive gains over time. The undeniably challenging environment that Tesla faces at the moment is not enough to impact our fundamental stance on the company and its prospects,” Osha wrote.

Concerns about the Model 3’s weakening demand might be overblown, especially considering that Tesla is currently focusing its push for the vehicle in territories outside the United States. This is a key point that seems to be neglected in recent mainstream analysis of the company’s strategy this quarter, as revealed in a recent piece on Model 3 demand from The New York Times. Citing new-car registrations compiled by the Dominion Cross-Sell Report, which concluded that new Tesla registrations “fell significantly” in the 23 US states covered in the report, the publication suggested that the numbers are a worrisome sign for the electric car maker.

While the NYT‘s hypothesis with Tesla’s lower registrations in the US should not be discounted, the company’s lower registration numbers could be explained by Tesla simply not delivering as many vehicles in the United States this quarter compared to Q4 2018. Since January, Tesla has been pushing the Model 3 to Europe and China, two markets that have been waiting for the electric sedan. This is a notable contrast to Tesla’s strategy in the fourth quarter, when all of its production and deliveries were focused in North America. Until Tesla reveals its delivery figures in Europe and China on its Q1 2019 production and delivery report, it seems too early to make assumptions about the sedan’s overall demand, or lack thereof.

Tesla is nearing the end of Q1 2019, and the company is putting all hands on deck. A recently shared email from Elon Musk has revealed that the CEO is urging the company’s employees to shift their focus on delivering cars to customers, regardless of their role. Musk was optimistic in his message, stating “This is the biggest wave in Tesla’s history, but it is primarily a function of our first delivery of mass manufactured cars on two continents simultaneously, and will not be repeated in subsequent quarters.” Musk has also announced that Tesla is increasing the price of inventory cars worldwide by ~3% on April 1. The changes would not be affecting the current prices of Tesla’s existing vehicles, and is only intended to bring the costs of inventory cars in line.

As of writing, Tesla shares are starting to recover, trading down 1.18% at $261.41 per share.

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

Tesla dips amid ‘meager’ Model 3 demand claims despite TSLA’s China, Europe push
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