Tesla Gigafactory Tour Not Enough To Convince Analysts Or Calm Investors

Tesla Gigafactory Tour Not Enough To Convince Analysts Or Calm Investors
<a href="https://pixabay.com/users/Blomst/">Blomst</a> / Pixabay

Although Tesla didn’t have an official presents at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, it did give analysts and more than 150 investors a tour of its Gigafactory in Nevada. However, it seems as analysts and investors alike are getting tired of the show that’s being put on with little to no proof. The automaker missed its delivery guidance again, and its stock price is starting to show some fatigue as it failed to rally the troops by showing off the facility.

Tesla’s Gigafactory is up and running

The Gigafactory is a key component of Tesla’s ability to produce the Model 3 at any kind of mass-market volume level, and the good news is that the facility is starting to churn out some batteries. The automaker is using these first batteries for its energy storage products. Management claims the facility will be able to hit its target of producing 35 megawatts per year by 2018, two years ahead of their original schedule.

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UBS analyst Colin Langan, who has a Sell rating and $160 price target on Tesla stock, said in a research note that the Gigafactory tour demonstrated how complex battery production is and showcased the automaker’s close relationship with Panasonic. He said although the facility, its scale and level of automation were “impressive,” the tour didn’t address his concerns, such as the automaker’s ability to hit its production charges, ongoing cash burn, “aggressive” targets for energy storage sales and Model 3 profitability.

Can Tesla be successful?

Langan said CEO Elon Musk named autonomy as their near-term edge and manufacturing as their long-term edge. Tesla focused on “cost opportunities,” according to the UBS analyst, including battery cell chemistry and production, vertical integration, and other parts of the production process.

However, he noted that the automaker has no track record in terms of mass volume production, so he questions whether it will be able to create an edge for itself through manufacturing. In terms of the Gigafactory itself, he feels that much of the value created there comes from Panasonic’s battery cell rather than Tesla itself, as Panasonic could use the cells with other automakers.

Tesla seems to have failed to impress investors

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas sits at the other extreme on Tesla, opposite Langan. However, even Jonas with his $242 price target has an Equal-weight rating on the automaker. Jonas seemed more impressed with the Gigafactory, but he noted that the automaker has a habit of trying to make “the dream tangible for the providers of capital.”

That’s what the tour was all about, as Tesla aims to give investors just enough information to keep the cash flowing. This is a tall task because every part of what it’s trying to do results in heavy cash consumption. Jonas noted that the Gigafactory tour was meant to help investors understand what the facility can do and the scale, thus reducing its cost of incremental capital. He called this “a key hallmark of the funding strategy.”

However, if today’s stock price is anything to go by, investors weren’t impressed. Shares of Tesla slumped by as much as 1.42% to $223.77 in the wake of the latest quarterly miss on vehicle deliveries. This is interesting given that Tesla stock rose ahead of the tour, although this would certainly fit the traditional investing wisdom of “buy on the rumor, sell on the news.”

The EV maker delivered about 22,000 vehicles during the fourth quarter, so for the full year, it shipped 76,230 vehicles, coming up short of its guidance for 80,000 to 90,000 vehicles.

The automaker produced 24,882 vehicles during the fourth quarter and had about 5,500 vehicles in transit at the end of the quarter. It also had 2,750 missed deliveries, meaning that transport was delayed or vehicles weren’t able to physically accept delivery of their vehicles.

Model 3 expected to be late

In his research note, Jonas predicted that the automaker won’t be on time delivering the Model 3 either, but he justified the lateness with Tesla delivering “a better car.” Musk declined to give any precise details on the Model 3 ramp, simply saying that they feel “pretty good” about how work is progressing at the Gigafactory where the Model 3’s battery packs, electric motor and other parts are manufactured.

However, Jonas feels that Musk’s lack of commentary hints at there being “a fair number of surprises and developments in the capabilities of the car that they will update the market on in due time.” He’s looking for autonomy improvements, more body styles and new transportation business models.

Quantitative updates needed

Goldman Sachs analyst David Tamberrino sits in the middle of Langan and Jonas when it comes to Tesla, as he has a $190 price target and Neutral rating on the company’s stock. He came away from the Gigafactory tour wanting some actual quantitative data and more concrete details on the amp, although he did find it “Helpful in illustrating the layout and process for manufacturing lithium ion battery cells and packs for its automotive and energy products.”

Like Jonas, Tamberrino felt Musk was “guarded” in what he would say about the Model 3. He came away feeling that the production ramp of the Model 3 is “seemingly hinging on stamping and seating, whereas the company is performing significant reconfiguration work on its end at the Fremont facility.” It doesn’t seem like the Goldman analyst sees surprises ahead for the Model 3 like Jonas does, but Jonas has long been positive on Tesla, although even he eventually dialed back his rating to the equivalent of Neutral.

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