Tesla Motors Inc downgraded as data points shift negative

Tesla Motors has gotten a lot of flak since it delivered the first set of Model X SUVs and revealed some more details about the vehicle, especially relating to price. However, that’s not the only concern bears have with the company right now, as the automaker’s data points keep turning worse and worse.

Barclays downgrades Tesla

In a report dated Oct. 9, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson said he downgraded Tesla from Equal Weight to Underweight and cut his price target from $190 to $180 per share. He noted that he has had a low price target that suggested an Underweight rating for quite some time even though he had maintained his Equal Weight rating until now.

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He decided to put his rating where is price target has been based on four negative data points from Tesla, noting that his view differs from that of bulls because bulls are banking on Tesla becoming a successful mass market automaker.

Model X complaints

Johnson added his own voice to the rash of others who have already expressed their disappointment with the Model X. He never mentioned the high price of the vehicle, as most other analysts have. Instead, he said last week’s unveiling dialed to live up to what usually happens around major launch events.

He added that in most cases, there’s a run-up to the event and then “some payback ever.” However, he noted that last week’s event did not boost Tesla shares, which he says suggests that story-driven investors are staying away. Tesla has historically been a story stock, but if story-driven investors are staying away, it loses a key support.

The other problem he sees is in the Model X’s margins. He sees a number of factors that he expects to drag margins under consensus estimates. The SUV’s complexity results in engineering challenges, which in term result in manufacturing challenges, which he calls “Elon’s headache.”

Model X introduces new risks to Tesla

Because of all these problems, the production ramp is sure to be slow. Tesla also faces the issue of balancing production of the Model S and Model X on the same line. All of these issues caused Johnson to lower his estimate for Tesla’s fourth quarter gross margin two points. His estimate for 2016 moves lower by 60 basis points.

The Barclays analyst also said the launch of the Model X reinforces three key risks he sees to the automaker being able to smoothly produce and deliver orders. First, he expects the slow ramp of production for the Model X to cause Tesla to “significantly miss” management’s full year delivery guidance for this year.

Second, he said if the Model X ramp is slow next year, the Model S might not offset this very much. And third, the slow ramp also suggests that the Model 3 might not launch on time as promised by management. If Tesla is late with the Model 3, then Johnson expects investors to doubt whether the automaker can ever become a mass market vehicle manufacturer.

Other risks from Tesla Energy

Tesla has received much acclaim and excitement around its Tesla Energy storage systems for homes, utilities, and businesses. However, Johnson thinks the slow ramp of the Model X will bleed over into this segment as well, limiting any upside it might provide even though there are cost benefits now. The analyst also is concerned about increasing competition in the space.

Shares of Tesla slipped by as much as 2.11% today, falling to $221.93 per share in late morning trading.