Tesla is not 'quite out of the woods yet,' says Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas

  • Tesla could burn as much as $1 billion in cash in the first quarter, Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas says.
  • "The biggest question for Tesla ... is this company finally at a point where it's self-financing, where it doesn't need external equity capital to fund its very ambitious plans?" he says.
  • A partnership with a tech company or another OEM "could go a long way" for the electric car company, he says.

Tesla has made progress reducing its cash burn but the electric-car maker is not "quite out of the woods yet," Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas told CNBC on Wednesday.

The auto analyst expects Tesla to burn about $600 million, possibly as much as $1 billion, in cash in the first quarter, but said a partnership with a tech company or another original equipment manufacturer "could go a long way."

The key for Tesla is to expand beyond a "standalone electric car company" and find resilience as competition in the electric space heats up, said Jonas, who gained a wide following on Wall Street for predicting the rise of Tesla and electric vehicles.

"The biggest question for Tesla share price, let's say over the next 12 months ... is this company finally at a point where it's self-financing, where it doesn't need external equity capital to fund its very ambitious plans?" he said on "Fast Money."

Tesla plans to reveal an electric truck this summer, but a counterpart can gain an edge with its own electric powertrain in the pickup truck market, Jonas said.

Morgan Stanley has a price target of $283 for the stock, which is more than 8 percent lower than its Wednesday close of about $308.

Tesla faces tougher questions as General Motors and Amazon are rumored to be investing in Rivian Automotive, a Detroit-based technology start-up that is the firm's top pick to compete with Tesla in the near future. Jonas sees Rivian as the next leader in electric pickup trucks.

"Rivian and other start-ups that can get access to the best talent and ... capital and ... have the business-model chops of an Amazon behind it, that could pose ... a much more serious threat to Tesla than, say, the Germans who will have EVs," Jonas said Wednesday, "but the cultural issues are real limiting factors in our opinion."