March 01, 2019
Teslas just got cheaper — and so did the company’s stock.
Shares of the electric-car maker tumbled almost 8 percent Friday after Elon Musk unveiled a long-awaited version of the company’s mass-market Model 3 sedan that costs just $35,000.
Tesla stock tanks after Elon Musk unveils cheaper Model 3
Musk, who previously had been charging north of $42,000 for the cheapest Model 3, likewise slashed prices on the Model S and Model X — including an $18,000 price drop for the models in Ludicrous mode.
But to pay for the discounts, Musk said late Thursday, Tesla will be shuttering most of its stores, laying off employees and moving worldwide sales exclusively online.
That, coupled with Tesla backtracking on a promise to deliver a profit during the current quarter, left Wall Street less enthusiastic about the Model 3’s chances to go mainstream — and more worried about margins and slackening demand.
“We think they’re having issues moving vehicles, and they’re experiencing inventory build,” Garrett Nelson, an analyst at CFRA Research, told The Post.
“It’s almost like they’re desperate, like their sales have fallen so much that they’re doing anything to prop up demand.”
DA Davidson analyst Tom Forte noted that investors are also spooked about Tesla’s debt. It paid off a $920 million chunk in cash on Friday — pointing out that the budget Model 3 has much smaller margins than its high-end vehicles.
“Longer term, an argument can be made that there’s some concerns about their ability to fund their debt if they can’t maintain profitability,” Forte said. “They’re going from earning $1.93 last quarter to a loss this quarter. Their profitability issues could very well go beyond this quarter.”
Nelson speculated that the earlier-than-expected arrival of the $35,000 Model 3 might be related to Musk’s scrap with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Earlier this week, the SEC demanded Musk be held in contempt of court for a tweet about Tesla production numbers the watchdog deemed misleading.
Indeed, only hours after the Model 3 announcement, Musk revealed in a court filing that he had brought on former Enron prosecutor John Hueston to his legal team.
Columbia Law School professor John Coffee told The Post that he does not see Musk’s legal team’s shake-up as an admission of concern over the SEC, but rather a reflection of his personality. “It sounds to me consistent with what he usually does, which is change everything every 72 hours,” Coffee said.
Tesla shares finished the day down 7.8 percent, at $294.79.
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