Tesla’s stock tumbled nearly 10% on Thursday after CEO Elon Musk signalled the electric vehicle maker will keep cutting prices to drive up demand, even after taking a painful hit to margins.
The leading electric car manufacturer lost over US$50-billion of its stock market value, while fears of an escalating price war also hit the shares of General Motors , Volkswagen and other car makers.
At $517-billion, Tesla’s market capitalisation ended Thursday below Meta Platforms’ for the first time since 2021.
“Tesla’s room to lower prices is not just limited to shrinking its superior margins; the EV maker seems conceptually ready to give away its hardware in the near term in hopes of richly monetising its software in a more distant future,” Deutsche analyst Emmanuel Rosner wrote in a client note.
Tesla’s gross margins fell in the first quarter to the lowest in more than two years, missing Wall Street’s estimates after the company ignited a global price war in January to defend its dominance in the US and make inroads in China, its second largest market.
Tesla’s automotive gross margin, excluding regulatory credits and leasing, stood at 18.3%, missing an “above 20%” target provided in January by Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn.
Tesla has already slashed prices six times this year and Musk suggested more such cuts ahead, saying the company will put sales growth ahead of profit in a weak economy.
“We’ve taken a view that pushing for higher volumes and a larger fleet is the right choice here versus a lower volume and a higher margin,” Musk said.
At least 15 analysts cut their Tesla price targets following Tesla’s report, pulling the median target of 42 analysts from $210 down to $200, or about 23% above the stock’s current level, according to Refinitiv data.
Investors dumped motoring company shares from Europe to the US on fears that they too will sacrifice margins to maintain market share. Ford and General Motors each lost about 3%; Lucid Group slumped about 7%.
France-based Renault, whose finance chief said the company will not drastically cut prices on its EVs amid Tesla’s downward “spiral”, dropped 8%. Germany’s Volkswagen fell 3.1%. Tesla remains up 32% year to date, far outperforming the S&P 500’s 8% rise. — Aditya Soni and Noel Randewich, with Hyunjoo Jin, (c) 2023 Reuters