Analysts at Morgan Stanley pumped the brakes on Tesla stock by lowering its price target ahead of the automaker’s Earnings Call late this week.
Tesla shares are down 15 percent so far this year. Over the past year, shares are up 66 percent, but moving into 2024, some bulls are remaining cautious.
Morgan Stanley is one of them. In a note to investors released on Monday, analysts at the firm noted there are several factors that could spell trouble for global demand, including increased competition, pricing instability, and slowing demand for EVs.
Tesla will report Earnings on Wednesday. The company reached its 1.8 million unit delivery goal in 2023. It also dominated EV deliveries in the United States and Europe and was toward the top of the list in China. It launched the Cybertruck, a new Model 3 design, and has plenty of other catalysts moving into 2024. However, an ever-changing landscape, more competition, and other factors have Morgan Stanley proceeding with increased caution for the year.
In a note from analysts at the firm, they wrote about the potential risks for the stock this year:
“Global EV momentum is stalling. The market is over-supplied vs. demand. We anticipate Tesla’s 2024 outlook to be cautious on volume and profitability…Tough sledding for EVs but we remain OW on AI and robotics optionality.”
Adam Jonas listed several risk factors for the stock in the note, which include price cuts, weakening or expiration of EV incentives, excess capacity in China, residual value risks, and fleets cutting EV concentration.
Tesla is still working on pricing stability, which improved greatly throughout 2023 but still offered some concern for investors. Less expensive EVs equate to increased adoption, but it also puts pressure on margins and profitability for the company.
Tesla has already cut prices in China and Europe this year, which is concerning from Morgan Stanley’s standpoint:
“Tesla has already announced price cuts in China and Europe that matched or exceeded our prior expectations of price reductions for the full year 2024. The German Tesla price cuts came merely days after Tesla announced production cuts at Giga Berlin related to Red Sea shipping issues. Lower production is usually positive for prices. This suggests the European EV situation is changing quite rapidly.”
Expiration/Weakening of EV Incentives
In the U.S. especially, Tesla is adjusting the narratives that surround some of its vehicles and their eligibility for EV tax credits. Two Model 3 configurations lost the tax credit, and as it is one of the best-selling EVs in Tesla’s lineup, it is not a positive, although the car is still affordable.
Morgan Stanley is also skeptical about the future of the IRA, stating it looks to be “increasingly uncertain.”
Some consumers are in need of these incentives to purchase the vehicle, and even if they are not a necessity, they are a benefit. It could sway many consumers in the direction of other vehicles. It is important to note that Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, and Ford also lost tax credit eligibility on some of their EVs.
Excess Capacity in China
Morgan Stanley said its Chinese team noted sales cannibalization, increased battery capacity and inventory, and the expiration of “certain local stimulus measures” as reasons Tesla may feel the heat.
Residual Value Risks
Price cuts from OEMs have pressured EV residuals, and dealerships are less bullish on electric cars than ever. Jonas writes that residual value volatility “hurts the value proposition for consumers and creates uncertainty around leasing partners who don’t want to hold this risk.” This includes Tesla.
Tesla’s leasing penetration is in the low single digits globally, Morgan Stanley notes.
Fleets Cutting EVs
Hertz made a drastic announcement earlier this month, stating it would backtrack its massive commitment to EVs as it did not properly account for the cost of damages. One-third of its EV fleet is being sold off, and a portion of the proceeds will go back into combustion engine vehicles.
Other companies are doing this as well on a smaller scale. Fleets offer a few advantages, including a large boost to orders for EV makers. Hertz planned to buy 100,000 Teslas, for example.
They also give drivers an opportunity to drive EVs before buying. While this will still be available, it will be less widespread.
Price Target Downgrade
Morgan Stanley moved its price target to $345 from $380.
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