(Note: The author of this fundamental analysis is a financial writer and portfolio manager. He and his clients own Tesla shares.)
The vast majority of Wall Street analysts currently see Tesla Inc. (TSLA) shares as a hold or sell, with only one-third viewing the stock as a buy. Goldman Sachs recently lowered its price target to $180 following Tesla's second-quarter delivery numbers, noting Tesla Model S and X production may be plateauing.
Regardless, Tesla is still on track to start production of the Model 3 and reach its goal of 500,000 cars in 2018. In the end, revenue will grow tremendously going forward should the electric-car maker's ambitions be achieved.
The one thing that is clear, regardless of whether Model S and X sales are plateauing, is that those models are becoming increasingly less important. If the Model S and X fail to grow and just maintain their current pace, Tesla is still on track to achieve nearly 500,000 cars by 2018. Tesla said it expects to produce about 20,000 cars by December 2017, putting it on pace to produce about 360,000 Model 3's in 2018. And with roughly 100,000 Model S and X's, that brings Tesla's 2018 units to around 500,000. That is, of course, assuming Model 3 production stays static at around 5,000 units per week.
The ramp-up in output over the next six months will be tremendous, and although the base Model 3 starts at roughly $35,000, the average selling price is likely to be higher once options and add-ons are factored in. For example, an Audi A4 Premium Plus model starts at $44,000, despite a base price of $36,000. Similarly, a BMW 3 Series 330i XDrive sells for nearly $50,000, even though it starts at around $35,000.
If we assume an average selling price of around $47,000 for a Model 3, on 360,000 cars, Tesla could generate revenue of about $16.9 billion in 2017 just on the Model 3. Add in another $7 billion in revenue from Model S, X and Energy Storage, and Tesla is on pace for revenue of roughly $24 billion in 2018. Analysts are currently looking for only $19.97 billion in 2018.
That revenue estimate we calculated above assumes no Model S, X, and Energy and Storage. It also assumes no further production improvements in Model 3 units. At $24 billion in sales, Tesla would only trade at 2.5 times sales.
Of course, all this falls apart should Tesla fall short of production guidance. Even if the average selling price on the Model 3 is lower than the $47,000 we assumed, it would have to drop to around $38,000 per Model 3 before having an adverse impact on analyst estimates of $19.97 billion.
There will be a lot more pressure on the company going forward to hit its production numbers in the future quarters than in the past. But investors over time should begin to focus more on the company's ability to generate revenue and profit than how many cars were delivered.
Regardless, for now Tesla's future appears very bright, and the company appears to be on track to achieve its goal of 500,000 units in 2018.
Michael Kramer is the Founder and Portfolio Manager of Mott Capital Management LLC, a registered investment adviser. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein. Upon request, the advisor will provide a list of all recommendation made during the past twelve months. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.