While investors may be optimistic on Tesla’s Model 3 production plans, which were tweeted by Elon Musk overnight, Bernstein is still skeptical the company will be able to produce the new electric car at a profit.
Analyst Toni Sacconaghi noted Musk’s tweets, if accurate, mean Tesla will be able to manufacture the Model 3 at an annualized rate of more than 240,000 cars by the end of fiscal 2017 versus his total estimate for fiscal 2018 of 225,000 Model 3 vehicles.
“On net, initial production ramp for the Model 3 looks like it may be better than expected – but investors should continue to focus on whether the Model 3 can be produced profitably and with strong initial quality,” Sacconaghi wrote in a note to clients Monday. “Specifically, we worry that if Tesla has struggled to make money (and produce GMs [gross profit margins] above 25%) on its $100,000 Model X and Model S sedans, that it may be difficult for it to make money on Model 3.”
The analyst reaffirmed his market perform rating for Tesla and price target of $250, representing 31 percent downside from Friday’s close.
Road testing for the Model 3 has been “limited” as Tesla decided not make a prototype car, Sacconaghi noted. As result, he said he is concerned the new electric car may have quality issues and hurt the company’s brand.
In addition “Elon’s historical track record of meeting production goals is mixed at best,” he said.
A spokeswoman directed CNBC to Musk’s comments during a first quarter conference call with analysts, when he said “with Model 3, I think we’ll be roughly comparable with the best high-volume vehicle production lines in the world. Better in some respects, a little worse in others. But roughly comparable,” according to a FactSet transcript.
Tesla shares traded roughly flat midday Monday. The stock is up nearly 70 percent this year versus the S&P 500’s 8 percent return.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.
Bernstein predicts Tesla shares to plunge despite Musk's bullish tweets