Tesla falls almost 5%, deliveries hurt by ‘demand saturation’, says analyst

NEW YORK: Tesla Inc tumbled 4.9%, its biggest drop in a month, after analysts at Cowen said vehicle deliveries may miss the company’s target this year as Model 3 demand slumps.

“Excluding the Netherlands and China, we expect Model 3 deliveries to be down 9% quarter over quarter and 7% year over year in the fourth quarter, which highlights the demand saturation we are seeing across most mature markets as we shift from pent-up demand to steady flow demand,” analyst Jeffrey Osborne wrote in a note dated Dec 29.

Tesla may deliver some 356,000 vehicles for this year, slightly below the target range of 360,000 to 400,000, he said.

At the same time, Cowen raised its fourth-quarter delivery estimate to 101,000 from 95,000 to reflect better expectations for the Netherlands and China.

Osborne’s 15,000 Model S/X expectation trails the company’s 20,000, while his 85,300 Model 3 forecast is roughly in line with consensus estimates.

Cowen’s view contrasted with optimism at Wedbush, as analyst Dan Ives in a separate note looking ahead to 2020 predicted that “Tesla will find success in China with Giga 3 and potentially hit the key 100,000 delivery number quicker than the US/Europe trajectory and be a demand tailwind.”

Cowen’s Osborne flagged a host of issues facing Tesla, including “pricing and mix issues that we believe will affect margins and profitability in the fourth quarter.”

He’s also still sceptical about long-term demand in China, though “optimism ahead of the China factory launch has been a key reason for the stock’s recent performance.”

He noted that the best-selling electric vehicle in China this year through October, BAIC’s EU Series, “has sold less than 2,000 vehicles per week and the top 5 models (all local brands) combined for less than 6,000 vehicles per week.”

Those models, he said, all cost about one-quarter to three-quarters less than what the China-made Model 3 is expected to cost; that will “also be more expensive than 90% of China vehicles sold in 2018”.

“While Tesla has built a very dedicated fan base that has been willing to excuse poor build quality, customer service, and service infrastructure, we continue to be sceptical around broader adoption,” Osborne said.

He rates the shares underperform with a price target of US$210, implying a 51% decrease.

Of the analysts tracked by Bloomberg, 15 analysts rate the shares the equivalent of a sell, while 11 rate it buy and 10 hold, with an average price target of US$297.