Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) continued to recover on Friday, despite noted short-seller Jim Chanos declaring the company’s vehicles as “poorly made.” Speaking recently in front of investors and businessmen, Chanos blasted Tesla for doing away with the auto industry’s established conventions, at one point even suggesting that that people probably buy the company’s electric cars simply because of Elon Musk.
“Musk is re-learning the hard lessons automakers in Detroit learned 100 years ago. It’s one thing to manufacture cars, but Detroit learned the hard way they didn’t want to be at the nexus. Decades ago, Detroit’s big car brands decided to let the dealers do that, and focus on manufacturing and updating models. Musk is now dealing with all of the things car makers have had to deal with…Tesla’s idea was to tear all that up and start from scratch, but sales and services are coming back in a hard way,” Chanos said, arguing that while Musk has created a “very sexy car” that is popular with many drivers, the vehicles are “turning out to be a poorly made car.”
When asked if he would view Tesla at a more positive light if Musk were to resign, Chanos stated that he doesn’t think the CEO can. “He’s the brand… it’s all about Elon Musk. I think a lot of people buy the car because he’s the brand,” the short-seller said. Chanos also scoffed at the idea of Tesla offering own insurance service, remarking “You have to be f-ing kidding me.”
While the noted short-seller has returned to air his criticisms against Tesla, a number of Wall St analysts are beginning to adopt a more positive stance on the electric car maker. Among these is Piper Jaffray analyst Alexander Potter, who stated in a recent note on Friday that concerns about weakening demand for the Model 3, which have pushed the stock down about 40% since the start of the year, are “overdone.”
The analyst mentioned that TSLA stock had been overwhelmed by bearish sentiments since the company released its first-quarter delivery results, which were hurt by logistical bottlenecks. “In a nutshell, we think bears are using weak Q1 deliveries to support a ‘doomsday’ thesis where weak demand drives factory under-utilization, margin degradation, and even insolvency. But the underlying premise (weak demand) requires defending — and so far, convincing evidence has yet to emerge,” Potter wrote.
Potter also highlighted that the real opportunity for the Model 3 is likely bigger than what some clients actually understand, particularly as the vehicle is not only competing with luxury vehicles. “Our analysis suggests that 54% of Model 3 demand should come from consumers who would have chosen mass-market vehicles. This mirrors Tesla’s own trade-in data,” the analyst added.
The Piper Jaffray analyst currently has an “overweight” rating for TSLA stock, as well as an optimistic $396 price target on the company.
Tesla’s first quarter might have been challenging, but indications have emerged pointing to the company ending the second quarter in a positive note. A leaked email from Elon Musk, for one, had suggested that Tesla might be able to meet, or even exceed, the company’s record deliveries in Q4 2018, a time when over 90,000 vehicles were delivered to customers. The company is also rolling out a compelling leasing program for the Model 3, which will likely make the electric sedan even more attractive to potential customers.
As of writing, Tesla stock is trading +0.36% at $206.70 per share.
Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.