Cowen lowers Tesla price target to $180. Model 3 deliveries could be weak

Emile Warnsteker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A couple look inside a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S at the company’s store at the Short Hills Mall in Short Hills, New Jersey.

Wall Street research firm Cowen lowered its price target on Tesla from $200 to $180 on Friday, saying data suggests deliveries during the quarter could fall below expectations, even with Tesla’s “typical end of quarter frantic push.”

Analyst Jeff Osborne is lowering his Model 3 delivery forecast from 55,000 to 47,500 and his Model S and Model X delivery forecast from 21,500 to 18,000, based on data from government and third-party sources. Cowen maintains the equivalent of a sell rating on the stock.

The Model 3 has been considered a key product for Tesla’s push from niche electric automaker to a true mass market brand. For months Tesla struggled to ramp up production and is now working to improve its deliveries of the vehicle, which starts at a price of $35,000.

In its outlook for the first quarter, Tesla said it expects North American vehicle deliveries to decline from the previous quarter, despite rising production. The company attributed this to selling Model 3s in Europe and China for the first time.

“As a result of the start of Model 3 expansion into Europe and China, deliveries will be lower than production by about 10,000 units due to vehicle transit times to these markets,” Tesla said in a letter to shareholders at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018.

The company also said it expected production to outstrip deliveries by about 10,000 units in the first three months of 2019.

Osborne expects that excess inventory will be a drain on the company’s cash, and that a shortfall in deliveries could indicate customers are losing interest in the car.

“Management will likely attribute the likely delivery miss to vehicles in transit to Europe and China, but we believe low demand in the U.S. is also a factor,” Osborne said.

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