Apr 3, 2024 - Technology

"Unmitigated disaster": What's behind Tesla's Q1 delivery stunner

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

There's no denying Tesla had a dreadful sales quarter, but whether it's a mere flesh wound or something deeper is tougher to parse.

Why it matters: Tesla is the dominant U.S. electric vehicle seller and, along with China's BYD, tops the global market.

  • Quarterly tallies are a barometer of Tesla's health but also the wider EV transition.

Catch up quick: First quarter deliveries, a proxy for sales, plunged to roughly 387,000, a far steeper drop than Wall Street predicted.

The big picture: Tesla said lower production and deliveries stem partly from temporary logistical woes.

  • They include factory shutdowns from ships avoiding Red Sea dangers and arson at its German plant.

Reality check: But analysts see more ominous problems like rising competition, slowing overall EV sales growth, and Tesla's aging lineup.

  • TPH & Co. Equity Research notes "continued concerns around [Tesla] demand, especially when taking into account the highly competitive market out of China."

What they're saying: Wedbush Securities' Dan Ives is always colorful but dialed it up to 11 this time, calling Tesla's Q1 an "unmitigated disaster ... that is hard to explain away."

  • He remains bullish but has concerns about growth and margins.
  • Deutsche Bank's Emmanuel Rosner said the big gap between production and deliveries implies inventory levels that show a "serious demand issue," with the U.S. among the problems.

The intrigue: BYD saw a bigger decline, creating a small silver lining for Tesla — it's again the top EV seller after falling behind in Q4.

Friction point: One possibility is that Tesla CEO Elon Musk's right-coded tilt and outlandish comments may be turning off some potential buyers.

The bottom line: Tesla's stock fell 5% Tuesday — a sign of concern, but not panic.

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