Tesla shares dogged by falling gas prices, output concerns

Tesla delivered 50,580 vehicles last year and aspires to deliver 500,000 by 2020.

Tesla Motors Inc. shares fell to a two-year low amid concerns that cheap gasoline is stifling demand for electric cars as well as whether the company can efficiently produce enough of its new crossover.

The stock slid 9 percent to $147.99 at 4 p.m. in New York for its lowest closing price since January 2014. The shares had already declined 32 percent this year through Friday.

Stock-market indexes were sharply negative on Monday.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of electric cars and energy-storage devices will report fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday after the market close.

Bearish sentiment has been on the rise since the release of the Model X crossover due to concerns about the company's production ramp and ability to manufacture the complex vehicle in high volumes.

Tesla delivered 50,580 vehicles last year and aspires to deliver 500,000 by 2020.

Hitting that target looks more doubtful with gasoline prices solidly below $2 a gallon in the U.S., said Kevin Tynan, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.

Rapidly increasing deliveries will depend on getting its Reno, Nev., battery factory up and running and an on-time introduction of the Model 3 sedan.

Investors are anxious to hear CEO Elon Musk give an update on how many cars Tesla expects to deliver in 2016, analysts said.

Musk has talked about producing 1,600-1,800 Model S and X vehicles a week this year.

"Our sense is updated guidance may be lower than" the 80,000 to 85,000 implied for 2016 by the weekly production rate, "which could drive further sell-off in shares," wrote analyst James Albertine of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. in a research note to clients Monday.

Other analysts remain bullish on Tesla's long-term prospects.

"There are understandable reasons why TSLA has sold off recently," said analyst Dan Galves of Credit Suisse in a research note to clients Monday, citing declining oil prices and negative sentiment on auto stocks. "But we see the concern on Model X production ramp/volumes, the subject of several recent bearish notes, as overdone at this point."

Analysts also are questioning whether Tesla's long-promised moderately priced car, the Model 3, will be delayed beyond its current projected 2017 launch date.

Questions about the Model 3 are more pointed now that General Motors plans to launch its $35,000 Chevy Bolt electric car at the end of this year.

German competitors also are speeding up plans to offer luxury electric cars. Established automakers were slow to respond to Tesla's technological lead in offering customers new features via over-the-air software upgrades, for example, but others are now investing to catch up.

Tesla now faces "sleepy (auto) giants waking up," according to analysts Adam Hull and Paul Kratz from German bank Berenberg, who initiated coverage of Tesla with a "sell" rating.

Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report.

25

Shares

Newsletters