May 10 2021 - Tesla: Massive Demand Report Seems Questionable
- Electrek reports that Tesla has sold out entire Q2 production.
- Company's site suggests this is not the case, especially in China.
- Stock has resumed its downtrend below 50-day moving average.
Last Thursday, before turning negative with a number of other momentum names, shares of electric vehicle maker Tesla (TSLA) were solidly in the green. Shares were up more than after the open, and basically double that in the pre-market, after EV site Electrek published an article detailing that the company's Q2 production was already sold out with nearly two months remaining in the quarter. This report doesn't seem very credible in my opinion, which is likely part of the reason why Tesla shares reversed and continued their recent downtrend.
Management talked at the Q1 earnings report about record orders during the period, but that might not have been a surprise given the launch of the Chinese made Model Y in that period. At the same time, customer deposits on the balance sheet declined during Q1 from 2 million to 5 million. This is despite no new Model S/X units being delivered in the period, which could easily represent tens of millions in potential deposits (especially with some of the new variants not available until 2022). We also continue to hear numerous positive things about Cybertruck reservations, so if that is increasing its deposits balance overall, that means the rest of the business is doing worse.
Now if demand was so off the charts that Tesla could be done with its planned production capacity already, why has the automaker not really raised prices to take advantage? For every small price raise we saw (US Model 3/Y, for example), we saw prices slashed in certain Europe and Asian markets, especially as Shanghai production serves new markets. But the biggest argument against Tesla being sold out already comes from Tesla's own pages, like the one seen below.
(Source: Tesla China Model 3 page, seen here)
For those that need a translation, the China page is estimating deliveries of the Made in China Model 3 in just 2-4 weeks, and this is for both available variants of this vehicle. That would be as early as May 23rd, and as late as the first week of June, so how can production be sold out already? The China made Model Y page only shows 3-5 weeks for the Long Range variant of that vehicle, as the performance version isn't scheduled to land until Q3.
This isn't exactly a China-specific thing either. The US Model 3 page shows delivery estimates that start at just 5 weeks, which matches what that site usually shows at this time of the quarter. Quite often, Tesla's US pages start off the quarter with delivery estimates of 10-14 weeks or so, and come down as the period goes on, with the range usually ending so that deliveries would occur in the last few weeks of the quarter. The US Model Y page also starts at 5 weeks, implying that vehicle is available during this quarter as well.
In Europe, several countries show availability of multiple Model 3 variants in May or June (Norway, Germany, UK). Those that now say June showed delivery availability for this month up until this recent weekend. Since it takes at least 3-4 weeks just to get those vehicles built and transported to those countries, it implies Tesla has sent (or is in the process of sending) batches to those countries, which means that inventory is still readily available.
If Tesla is truly sold out for the quarter, that would seem to imply it is lying to consumers about delivery estimates on its order pages. Perhaps the only explanation would be that the chip shortage is severely hurting production, but management said it has withstood that storm so far. If Q2 production is really down from Q1 levels, that could explain management not raising its yearly delivery guidance like many bulls were hoping for at the recent earnings report. Tesla did not provide any sort of concrete guidance for Q2, so we'll have to wait until early July to find out what really happened. We're also still waiting for the first deliveries of the new Model S vehicles that were supposed to hit the market in February according to Elon Musk.
Tesla has certainly been in the headlines lately, and not in a good way. The company has come under increased scrutiny in China, while the deadly crash in Texas raised many eyebrows about Tesla's full self-driving potential. Last week, Stellantis said it would hit European emissions targets without help from Tesla, potentially hurting credit revenues in 2021. Last Thursday it was also revealed that one of Tesla's biggest supporters slashed its position by more than 40% in Q1.
As Tesla shares have resumed their downtrend, they lost the 50-day moving average (purple line) again as seen in the chart below. This might have resulted in some technical selling, but we've also seen some underperforming funds like the ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK) have to sell to cover some fund redemptions. The gap between the 50-day and 200-day has narrowed to a point we haven't seen since August 2020, and at Thursday's low shares were nearly 28% off their all-time high.
In the end, the report out last week that Tesla's Q2 production is already sold out seems rather questionable. Not only were customer deposits down in Q1 despite the lack of new Model S/X sales and supposedly surging Cybertruck reservations, but Tesla's own web pages show some vehicles can still be had this month for China and portions of Europe. Tesla shares have trended lower recently, and last week's news didn't do much to help the situation overall.