Overall, it hasn’t been a good week for the EV manufacturer—and it’s only Wednesday.
Tesla price target to $190
Pacific Crest analyst Brad Erickson said in a report dated July 5 that he cut his estimates for Tesla as his checks suggest that the Model 3 and the newest bottom-tier Model S may be cannibalizing the more expensive models. As a result, he slashed his price target for the automaker from $212 to $190 per share but maintained his Sector Weight rating.
The analyst said he checked with 15 sales centers in various U.S. markets and learned that demand for the new 60 kWh Model S that can be upgradable to 75 kWh for $2,500 is strong. He estimates that about half of the demand for the most expensive Model S 90 kWh models is skewing toward the new bottom-tier model. He warned that Tesla’s gross margins are at risk as a result of this shift, adding that the 60kWh Model S may end up making up a little more than 10% of total units.
Has Tesla really overcome its production challenges?
Over the holiday weekend, Tesla said it missed its second quarter delivery guidance, coming in at 14,370 vehicles rather than the 17,000 deliveries management had forecast. The automaker explained that half of the 18,345 vehicles it produced during the second quarter were in built in the last four weeks of the quarter, which demonstrates how steep the production ramp was. Because of this steep ramp, Tesla had more than 5,000 vehicles in transit to customers at the end of the quarter. This is roughly double the number of vehicles that were in transit at the end of the first quarter.
Despite the steep production ramp, Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache is unsure about whether the company has overcome its production challenges. He said in a report dated July 4 that suppliers are still indicating that Tesla is having trouble maintaining steady production for the Model X. Some are even estimating “up time” that’s as low as 50%, which he explained is “highly unusual for an automaker,” considering that the vehicle was launched in the third quarter of 2015.
As a result, he slashed his earnings estimate for this year and is now projecting a sizable per-share loss of 42 cents, compared to his previous estimate of 9 cents per share in earnings. He’s expecting Tesla’s losses to widen in the second quarter to 94 cents per share, compared to the first quarter’s loss of 57 cents per share. Lache has a Hold rating on the automaker.
Tesla deals with Autopilot crashes
Meanwhile Tesla is dealing with PR fallout from a fatal crash involving a Model S in Autopilot mode in Florida. The accident occurred on May 7, and the company learned about it “shortly” after it. Then on May 16, it reported the crash to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, it wasn’t until June 30 when the agency announced an investigation that the public learned of the crash. Critics are blasting Tesla and the NHTSA for now informing the public about the fatal crash earlier, particularly in light of the fact that Autopilot is currently in beta testing.
CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Tuesday that the fatal accident “wasn’t material” to the automaker. However, some call the timing of the disclosure suspect as it raised at least $1.46 billion through a stock offering between May 18 and 19—during the time the Autopilot probe was going on, notes CNBC. A Tesla spokesperson said they knew about the fatal accident at the time of the capital raise but that their internal investigation had not yet been completed.
The driver of the tractor-trailer involved in the fatal Model S accident in Florida said a Harry Potter video was still running inside the car when it finally stopped after the impact. Drivers are told to keep their hands on the wheel of the car while it is in Autopilot mode and be prepared to take control if needed.
Another wreck involving Tesla’s Autopilot mode
Today’s news about a Model X in Autopilot mode also being involved in an accident couldn’t come at a worse time. According to the Detroit Free Press, an art gallery owner told police that his Model X was in Autopilot mode when it crashed and rolled over last week. The driver and his passenger survived the crash.
The police officer who wrote the accident report said he will probably cite the driver after he finishes his investigation, although he did not say what the charge might be. The stretch of road on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where the accident happened has narrow shoulders and concrete medians, leaving little room for error. The Detroit Free Press said there’s no evidence to indicate that Tesla’s Autopilot mode malfunctioned and caused the accident.
Shares of Tesla declined by as much as 1.84% to $210.05 during regular trading hours on Wednesday.