Tesla Motors shares poised for a rally, Morgan Stanley analyst says

Tesla Model S sedans move down the assembly line at Tesla's electric car factory in Fremont, Calif.
Tesla Model S sedans move down the assembly line at Tesla’s electric car factory in Fremont, Calif.
(Jerry Hirsch)

Although shares of Tesla Motors have plunged nearly 25% since their high in September, investors should not despair; the stock will bounce higher heading into spring, according to a report from Morgan Stanley Research analyst Adam Jonas.

“We expect a pivot in news flow and outlook for Tesla on several fundamental fronts, triggering a recovery in the share price,” Jonas said.

The Palo Alto maker of high-end electric cars was at $217 in midday trading. That is down from a high of more than $286 a share in early September. Jonas told investors that the price should “reclaim $250 by spring.”

He said a strong U.S. dollar and low oil prices “have teamed up against” Tesla. While that’s created some healthy skepticism about the prospects for the company, the share price decline also provides “classic opportunity to increase exposure to what we see as the world’s most important auto company.”


Jonas said look for the following factors to power a Tesla rally.

1: Watch for global sales to pick up. While there have been some questions about demand for Tesla’s Model S in recent months, sparked in part by a sales hiccup in China, Jonas believes buyers covet the company’s electric cars more than ever. That’s in part because Tesla is starting to broaden its offerings -- it will add the Model X crossover to the lineup later this year and already has upgraded the Model S with the dual-motor version called the P85D that can make the 0-to-60-mph run in 3.2 seconds.

A Model S with enhanced performance will “help both volume and transaction price,” Jonas said. “The cars are getting better... and more fun.”

China, however, remains a problem.

“We forecast China to account for just 6% of Tesla’s total deliveries in 2015 and 10% in 2016,” he said.

2. Tesla is making progress on battery production well ahead of its construction of a massive battery factory near Reno.

“While the ability to mass produce [battery] cells with full automation in Nevada may not be possible before 2017, we anticipate Tesla to be in position to share some results of the prototyping of the design well ahead of that,” Jonas said.

He believes Tesla will eventually produce batteries that will be used by the automobile, solar and electric grid industries.


3. Although the vehicle has been delayed several times, the Model X looks to be on track to go on sale in the third quarter of this year, Jonas said.

With its Falcon wind doors that rise up rather than out, the Model X “attributes and early consumer/enthusiast reception will represent a significant shift in the perception of the addressable market for Tesla products -- not unlike what Porsche experienced when it brought the Cayenne to market,” Jonas said.

He said he believes Tesla shares will climb back to $280.

“At a time when we are growing increasingly cautious on the U.S. auto cycle, we see Tesla as a way for investors to gain idiosyncratic exposure to secular and technological trends in the auto industry -- car connectivity, autonomous driving, high performance,” Jonas said.


Follow me on Twitter (@LATimesJerry), Facebook and Google+.