Tesla Motors Inc Earns Mixed Reviews From Analysts

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Tesla Motors has been a very polarizing stock for the last few years, and the trend continues after the automaker’s latest announcement. Last week the company outlined planned upgrades to its first car, the Roadster.

Firms update their views on Tesla

Stifel analysts say the announced changes suggest plans for longer-range battery packs for the Model S and Model X—and ultimately for the Model 3 as well. They don’t think demand for the company’s cars is as bad as other analysts and some investors think. As a result, they have maintained their Buy rating and $400 per share price target on Tesla stock.

However, Jefferson Research analysts say Tesla’s continued high valuation causes them to maintain their Sell rating on Tesla.

Not much true competition for Tesla

In his report dated Dec. 26, 2014, Stifel analyst James Albertine said he continues to see Tesla as a “disruptive manufacturer,” which is why he still has a positive outlook on the EV maker. He remains positive on Tesla because of the lack of competition for luxury RVs.

In terms of other automakers entering the market for the 2017-2018 model year, he sees it as “a positive attestation of TSLA’s ‘runway.'” He points out that Tesla is still ahead of competitors in terms of range for its vehicles. As a result, he thinks Tesla will have an even better range by the time competitors catch up to its current 250-mile range.

Demand not a true worry for Tesla

In terms of concerns about slowing demand for Tesla’s vehicles because of falling gas prices, he doesn’t think it’s as bad as some thinks. He said Tesla’s customers clearly don’t care much about the gas savings benefit of owning an EV, as they’re willing to shell out $100,000 to $115,000 for an electric car.

Additionally, the analyst said Tesla wouldn’t have the success it has had in the last couple of years if customers were only interested in saving money on gas. He notes that hybrid vehicles offer some gas savings, and Tesla has been going head to head with them.

Tesla’s head start is critical

He said Tesla Motors will be able to leverage its head-start in terms of testing, production and quality and will probably remain a leader in terms of distribution because traditional automakers don’t yet seem interested in selling EVs. He thinks the reason is because there is a lot of uncertainty regarding long-term service needs for the vehicles.

The analyst also said the announced 400-mile range for the upcoming Roadster 3.0 suggests Tesla is developing batteries with longer ranges for the Model X and the Model S. He added that this development should help the automaker deliver a high range for its Model 3 mass market vehicle, possibly including a battery with a 250- to 300-mile range with a smaller form factor for the more affordable EV.

Not all are bullish on Tesla

In their review of Tesla, analysts at Jefferson Research point out that the company has improved its operating efficiency over the year. They add that the risk of investing in Tesla grew a bit from the second to the third quarter due to the automaker’s valuation.

Also cash flow quality remains at the Weakest level, as does the company’s balance sheet. However, earnings quality remains at the Strongest level, according to their analysis.

Tesla’s operating efficiency improved from Weakest to Weak in the third quarter. The analysts cited improvements in equity turnover, gross margin and ROIC.

The Jefferson Research team cut their valuation rating on Tesla from Least Risk to Low Risk because the automaker’s price to earnings growth ratio “became less attractive” in the third quarter. The analysts saw an improvement in the price to cash flow ratio, but they say there was a decline in Tesla’s price to sales ratio compared to the rest of the sector.

Shares of Tesla Motors slipped less than 1% in premarket trading this morning after closing out Friday up by 2.5%.

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