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Nation & World

Analyst advises return to basics for Tesla CEO

Is Elon Musk spending too much time away from Tesla’s assembly line?

That’s the opinion of a Wall Street analyst whose new view on where Musk is putting his attention these days led many investors to start the week by dumping their Tesla shares as soon as they woke up Monday.

Tesla shares fell as much as 6.5%, to $196.75 – the stock’s lowest point since December 2016 – after Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities cut his price target on Tesla to $230 a share from $275. In a research note, Ives said that Tesla and Musk are putting efforts and attention on things such as insurance, robotaxis “and other sci-fi projects (and) endeavors” at a time with they should be “laser focused on shoring up core demand for Model 3 and simplifying its business model and expense structure.”

As trading progressed, Tesla shares recouped some of their losses, but they still remained down more than 4 percent, at about $201.

The success of the Model 3 is seen as crucial for Tesla’s future success as the company tries to reach a broader customer base and expand beyond its luxury electric car image. Musk has set a goal of Tesla producing 360,000 to 400,000 Model 3s by the end of the year, while also cutting expenses and trying to get back on track toward profitability after reporting a first-quarter loss of $700 million.

Earlier this month, Tesla said it would sell debt and issue new shares of stock in order to raise $2.7 billion to help finance its operations.

But Ives said that “mixed signs of Model 3 demand” are making it more challenging for Tesla to reach Musk’s production targets. Ives said Tesla has a “Herculean task” ahead of it to reach Musk’s goals, and estimates that Tesla will most likely produce 340,000 to 355,000 Model 3s this year.

“The demand story at Tesla is quickly changing and the company has unfortunately not adjusted to an evolving electric vehicle landscape,” Ives said. “We have continued concerns around Tesla’s ability to balance this perfect storm of softer demand and profitability concerns.”

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©2019 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com

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