Even before Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) unveiled its upcoming electric Model 3 sedan, analysts had said initial pre-orders will likely be the number more important to watch out for, than the vehicle specifications themselves. A day after launch, these analysts have not gone disappointed.
Pre-orders for the Model 3 which began early in the day ahead of the official Model 3 unveil event scheduled for 8:30 PM Pacific Time, clocked in at over 130,000 on March 31 alone, blowing past even some of the most loftiest expectations. Global Equities Research – a widely acclaimed Tesla bull on the Street – for example was modeling Model 3 reservations in access of 100,000 units, which it said could amount to $3.5 billion for Tesla.
Today, Stifel analyst James Albertine re-iterated a strong Buy rating for Tesla and a $325 price target for the stock saying it was “awestruck” by the initial demand for the mass market electric vehicle. The firm admitted its own expectations for initial pre-orders was much lower.
Stifel however has still cautioned on potential production bottlenecks. The investment firm believes Tesla would have learned from the launch periods of both the Model S and the Model X, still the firm believes there are several unknown variables in the equation.
For one, Stifel notes little is known to the exterior composition of the Model 3 with respect to use of aluminum or steel. Speculations however favor more use of steel which coupled with an entirely new production platform and significantly higher volumes could present a novel challenge to Tesla – much different to the production phases of the Model S and the Model X.
Further, it still unknown exactly what the battery costs will be when the Model 3 does hit production. Tesla is already mostly done developing its 10-million square feet battery plant in Nevada that it hopes will slash battery costs by at least 30%, but that number relates to optimum capacity that Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has said will happen in 2020. With Model 3 deliveries slated for late next year, battery costs will still likely be higher than optimum, perhaps leading to suppressed margins for the Model 3, implies Stifel.
Stifel’s $325 price target for Tesla stems from assumptions of 200,000 annual electric vehicle sales for the company across the globe by the end of decade. Tesla’s own guidance stands at much loftier 500,000 units mark.
Despite the firm’s belief that Tesla’s Model 3 could put it well ahead in mass market competition with other larger automakers, the firm says its rather conservative 2020 sales guidance for Tesla reflects potential production constraints.
Shares for Tesla are up more than 6% in pre-market trading today.