Tesla shares closed down despite Model 3 goal announcement, as the company still has a lot to prove

Key Points
  • Tesla shares closed down 2.3%, despite meeting its previously stated goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 vehicles in a week.
  • Some investors remain skeptical that Tesla will be able to sustain these production levels, get to profitability, achieve cash flow independence and produce cars at the low prices it promised.
Elon Musk says Tesla hit Model 3 production goal
Elon Musk says Tesla hit Model 3 production goal

Tesla announced on Monday that it hit its quarterly goals for vehicle production, churning out 5,031 Model 3's over the last week of June, squeaking past its self-imposed target of 5,000. The company expects to increase production to 6,000 Model 3s per week by late August.

Tesla's new vehicle production and deliveries report helped the stock surge, initially, on Monday. But after rising by about 6 percent at the beginning of the session, shares in Tesla dipped and the stock traded down 2.3 percent to close the day at $335.07

That's because, to many on Wall Street, the electric vehicle maker still has a lot to prove.

Sustained production. For starters, analysts are wondering if Tesla can sustain high-volume production of the Model 3, rather than pushing employees to hit a "burst" rate a rush to finish the quarter.

Goldman Sachs analyst David Tamberrino raised this point in a note ahead of Tesla's vehicle production and deliveries report on Monday. And CFRA's Efraim Levy expressed the same concerns in a note downgrading the stock from a hold to a sell today.

Profitability and cash flow. Levy also said in an interview with that it's time for Tesla to focus on the bottom line.

"They have to prove they can be profitable or profitable soon. Ultimately, I do think they will be. The question is when and how profitable. Right now, they are spending a lot and relying on capital markets to fund their investments. The point is to become self-sustaining for cash flow generation as soon as possible."

Earlier this year, the company reduced its capital expenditure plans for 2018 to $3 billion down from $3.4 billion. Musk said the company does not want or need to raise equity or new debt this year to accomplish its goals.

But at the same time, it has announced intentions to establish a new factory in Shanghai, develop new vehicles like a Semi and Model Y, perfect its manufacturing processes at its existing factories, and perfect its long-awaited glass solar roof tiles, which have thus far only been installed at a handful of home

Lower prices. Autotrader executive analyst Michelle Krebs also notes that Tesla has made pricing promises to customers that may prove hard to keep.

She noted that after originally promising its Model 3 electric sedans as a $35,000 vehicle, Tesla has yet to begin building and selling the base model version of the car.

Tesla also faces a limit on tax credits for its prospective customers. As soon as Tesla exceeds 200,000 electric vehicles, an available federal tax credit begins to phase out, leaving customers to pay more on balance for their electric cars from Tesla.

Holding Tesla to different standards

Krebs and Levy both said Tesla is being judged by different standards than other automakers today.

Krebs said, "There are many reasons to be skeptical, because this is a company that has made a lot of promises and under-delivered. They have to stem their cash flow. They have to very consistently produce vehicles in greater numbers with high levels of quality. They need to deliver to customers what they promised."

Levy noted Tesla's "stratospheric" valuation versus GM and Ford.

Krebs said, "I admire Tesla for what it’s done and trying to do. They're credited with forcing other auto makers to think about electric vehicles. But at some point you have to hold their feet to the fire in terms of what they’re promising and what they are delivering."

Despite the heavy workload ahead, Tesla recently laid off at least 9 percent of its staff, and is closing a dozen solar facilities across 9 states, which could hamper its residential energy business, at least temporarily.

Shares in Tesla were trading about $10 higher at this time last year. But its stock rose 18% in the month of June alone.

CFRA downgrades Tesla, says production rate not financially sustainable
CFRA downgrades Tesla, says production rate not financially sustainable