Tesla’s Model X SUV could be delayed again, analyst says

Expect to wait a little longer for Tesla Motors to debut its long-awaited sport-utility vehicle.

That’s the word from analyst Adam Jonas and the auto industry team at investment house Morgan Stanley. Tesla is saying the electric SUV, which already has suffered development delays, will come out in the second quarter of next year. Jonas believes the third quarter of 2015 is a more reasonable scenario.

But there’s a silver lining, says Jonas, who has been bullish on Tesla’s prospects. A delay could cause some weakness in Tesla’s high-flying stock and an opportunity to buy.

“We would use any weakness as an opportunity to increase exposure to the world’s most important car company,” Jonas wrote in a report to investors Thursday.


Tesla shares were trading at $227.17 midday Thursday, off about 1%. Jonas has a $320 price target for the stock.

The analyst also believes that any delay indicates Tesla’s intent to make its second model to join the Model S sport sedan as good as it can be.

He said it also could be packed with features not available in Tesla’s Model S, which starts at about $71,000 and now can go up to $120,000 for the high-performance version. The Model X will be built at the same Fremont, Calif., factory where Tesla already manufactures the Model S.

Here are four reasons why Jonas believes the Model X will be delayed.

1: Major auto launches are typically late, he wrote.

“Given the ever-higher level of technical and safety scrutiny facing all auto manufacturers, we find it very common for major launches to hit dealer lots later than the market anticipates,” Jonas said.

2. Only a few prototypes have been seen on the road. The early versions of a new model typically get some road time before the vehicle goes into commercial production.

“We just find it unusual that these prototypes have not been spotted more frequently given the intense public interest in the product,” he said.

3. Tesla just introduced an all-wheel-drive version of the Model S to the surprise of Jonas and other industry watchers. All-wheel drive is going to be a major feature of the Model X.

Jumping it into the sedan “suggests more ‘spacing’ ahead of Model X launch” Jonas said. “Our North American team had not expected Tesla to introduce an AWD product prior to the Model X, thinking the company would preserve one of the most desirable ‘why buy’ characteristics of the new model for the all new introduction.”

4. Finally, Tesla wants to make sure the Model S is a hit, and that could cause delays.

“Tesla has the benefit of substantially superior financial, technical resources and supplier partnerships to do things with the Model X it was not capable of doing with the Model S. For example, we believe the active safety/autonomous driving capability suite of the Model X can be significantly better than even the most advanced, updated Model S recently unveiled,” Jonas said.

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