Local Chinese media is reporting that Tesla's Shanghai Gigafactory is now turning out more than 1,000 Model 3 cars every week. That's based on 28 cars being produced during each 10-hour shift, a number reported by China's Global Times, a state-controlled newspaper. And, the paper reported, the factory's production manager says the plant will start producing 3,000 Model 3s a week in the near future.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in October that the company had learned a lot about efficiency when it built its first Chinese plant, and it shows. It took only 10 months from when construction began to when the first Chinese made Model 3s were delivered to customers on Monday. The Global Times also reported that 70 percent of parts for the Chinese-made Model 3s are sourced outside of China, the Gigafactory will source 100 percent of its products from China by the end of 2020.

In an elaborate ceremony involving lots of confetti, Tesla delivered its first 15 Shanghai-made Model 3s to their new owners on Monday as well. Fourteen of those first 15 cars went to Tesla employees. The fifteenth was purchased by a Tesla employee but then he filled it with flowers and presented it to his girlfriend along with a marriage proposal. (I'm already married, but if I weren't and someone proposed to me with a Tesla instead of an engagement ring, I have to say I'd be OK with that.)

Even so, Tesla shares are down.

Despite this undeniably good news, Tesla's share price dropped today by about 4 percent on Monday. That's because Jeff Osborne, an industry analyst at investment firm Cowen, announced today that he had crunched the numbers and he believes Tesla will fail to fulfill its own prediction that it would sell at least 360,000 cars in 2019. Just how many does he think the company will sell? About 356,000. If he's right, Tesla will miss its guidance by only 4,000 cars. 

Osborne has argued that demand for the more expensive Model S and Model X vehicles is down, and that demand for Model 3s in nations other than The Netherlands and China has gone down 7 percent because pent-up demand created by people waiting for their pre-ordered cars has gotten filled. Osborne has actually raised his target price for Tesla shares from $190 to $210, but since even after the sell-off, Tesla is trading at about $414, he's still calling it a bad buy. "Simply, we see a lot more that can go wrong than can go right," he wrote.

Wall Street analysts predicting gloom for Tesla is nothing new -- they've been doing that pretty much since the company began. The fact is that having a huge factory rapidly churning out cars in the world's biggest electric vehicle market is a very good thing. So is the next Gigafactory Tesla plans to build in Berlin. 

The big remaining question is profitability. Tesla scored record profits in the third quarter, but those were artificially inflated by a payment from Fiat Chrysler relating to European emissions laws, and to customer prepayments for Tesla's Smart Summon feature. We'll have to wait until the company reports its full results before we have a clear idea how profitable Tesla is or isn't, now that it's mostly selling $40,000-50,000 cars instead of $100,000 ones. But to downgrade the stock because the company missed its own sales projections by 4,000 cars, or about 1 percent of the total? That's just silly.

Published on: Dec 31, 2019
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