Tesla shares tumble on coronavirus concerns

Key Points
  • Tesla shares tumbled on Monday amid a broader market sell-off namely driven by investors' coronavirus concerns.
  • Tesla recently opened a Shanghai car plant and is heavily reliant on Chinese suppliers to make its electric cars. 
A Tesla Model 3 vehicle set to be delivered to a company employee moves off an assembly line during a ceremony at the company's Gigafactory in Shanghai, China, on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. Tesla spent over $1 billion in the most recent quarter on factories, including one in Germany, and Elon Musk has hinted that India could be the next target.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tesla shares tumbled on Monday amid a broader market sell-off driven by investors' coronavirus concerns. The COVID-19 epidemic in China could turn into a pandemic, with infections on the rise in Iran, Italy and South Korea.

Tesla, which recently began manufacturing operations in Shanghai, saw its shares close down 7.5%, ending the day at $833.79. Tesla also relies on many Chinese suppliers to make its electric cars, and is hoping to sell more cars to Chinese consumers. 

By way of comparison, the S&P 500 lost 3.35%, and most large-cap tech stocks with limited exposure to China dropped around 4%.

As the outbreak emerged, Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn said on a 2019 fourth-quarter earnings call that the coronavirus outbreak would only cause the business a week-and-a-half production delay in China.

By Feburary 13, 2020, the company changed its tone and said in an annual financial filing that the coronavirus outbreak may have a material adverse impact on its business.

Tesla Investors have also been concerned about the final results of an Autopilot-related crash investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB plans to deliver that report on Tuesday afternoon in Washington D.C. (It originally planned to reveal its findings in the morning, but postponed the report.)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk frequently claims that Autopilot saves lives. However, the safety of this automated driver assistance system, which is standard in newer Tesla vehicles, is still being evaluated by third party researchers.

The NTSB previously recommended that all automakers with automated driver assist systems on the market -- including Tesla Autopilot, Cadillac Super Cruise, Nissan ProPilot or Volvo Pilot Assist-- implement changes to keep drivers attentive while using them, and to prevent abuse or mis-use of the technology.

Tesla drivers often boast online about using Autopilot features such as Autosteer to drive without touching the steering wheel, and others fall asleep behind the wheel. They do this, even though the fine print of Tesla's vehicle owners manual cautions drivers: "Autosteer is a BETA feature," and "Warning: Autosteer is a hands-on feature. You must keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times."

Tesla's own marketing videos previously depicted drivers with their hands off the wheel.

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