JPMorgan slashes its Tesla Model 3 fourth-quarter forecast in half

Key Points
  • JPMorgan lowers its fourth-quarter Model 3 delivery estimate to 15,000 cars from 30,000 cars.
  • Its analyst wonders whether difficulty in producing the Model 3 hints at lower profitability for the car in the future.
JPMorgan cuts price target on Tesla ahead of earnings
JPMorgan cuts price target on Tesla ahead of earnings

Tesla's recent failure to meet production targets for its Model 3 car is worrying a top Wall Street firm.

JPMorgan reaffirmed its underweight rating on the electric-car maker's shares and reduced its price target, predicting Tesla will continue to have issues producing its vehicles.

Tesla's stock traded down 0.9 percent Friday afternoon. Its shares are up 65 percent this year versus the S&P 500's 14 percent gain through Thursday.

In the third quarter, Tesla delivered 26,150 total vehicles but just 220 Model 3 cars. Wall Street analysts had expected overall production of 25,860, with 1,260 Model 3s, according to FactSet.

Two months before Tesla revealed the numbers, it had said it would produce 1,500 Model 3 vehicles for the quarter.

The September quarter "deliveries of Model 3 vehicles significantly underwhelmed relative to both management guidance and our own delivery expectations," Ryan Brinkman wrote in a note to clients Friday. "Management cited production bottlenecks as the primary driver of the lower than expected deliveries of the newly launched Model 3 vehicles, furthering our concerns that significant execution risks exist associated with the roll-out of the Model 3 that seem insufficiently reflected in current valuation."

As a result, the analyst lowered his fourth-quarter Model 3 delivery forecast to 15,000 cars from 30,000 cars.

"While the difficulties in ramping the vehicle Model 3 could very well prove temporary, we do wonder if they could hint at structurally lower profitability for the vehicle on a go-forward basis (for example if the vehicle were not as easy or simple to manufacture as intended), prompting our concerns about margin," he wrote.

Elon Musk
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Brinkman lowered his price target for Tesla shares to $195, which is 45 percent below Thursday's closing price. His old price target was $200.

"We worry that if the vehicle proves structurally more expensive to manufacture, that in order to preserve the targeted gross margin, Tesla may need to increase the price of the vehicle to consumers, with negative implications for demand," he wrote.

The company's stock is down 1.1 percent this week through Thursday after a report that it fired hundreds of employees.

Some investors are also concerned about the company's cash burn and ability to meet its Model 3 production goals.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.