To say it’s been a rough week for Tesla would be a gross understatement. In the wake of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announcing their intention to investigate a fatal Model X crash last week, shares of the electric automaker went into a freefall yesterday, dropping by nearly 9% and losing billions worth of market value in the span of just a few hours.
Compounding matters is that Moody’s earlier today downgraded Tesla’s debt to a B3 rating, a rating which “signifies a higher risk of default and greater risk to investors or policyholders.” In short, Tesla is struggling to generate a sufficient amount of cash as it finds itself in the midst of extreme financial instability. Consequently, Moody’s notes that Telsa will likely “have to undertake a large, near-term capital raise in order to refund maturing obligations and avoid a liquidity shortfall.” Not surprisingly, Tesla shares took another beating today with the stock down nearly 8%.
As to what’s going on behind the scenes, well, there appear to be a few factors in play. Of course, it’s no secret that Model 3 production has been coming along a lot slower than anticipated. Remember, Tesla’s initial goal was to manufacture upwards of 20,000 Model 3 units per month by the end of 2017, a production goal that has since been pushed back to the end of June 2018.
Beyond that, the number of Model 3 orders coming in is reportedly not as high as the cumulative number of outstanding reservations would otherwise suggest.
Analysts at Bernstein said in a research note last week that fewer than 30% of customers who have been invited to take delivery of the Model 3 have actually done so.
And Tesla can’t simply cut spending to solve its cash challenge if it hopes to ramp up production. The company has racked up about $10 billion in long- term debt and has $23 billion in total liabilities. To survive long term, Tesla needs to stop overpromising and to scale back its ambitions to goals it actually can achieve. Right now, though, it just needs more money.
Without question, investors will be keeping an extremely close eye on Tesla’s delivery report next week. With Tesla noting that it plans to deliver approximately 100,000 Model S and Model X units throughout 2018, it’s a safe bet that Tesla shares will continue to drop if cumulative Model S and Model X deliveries fall below 25,000 for the quarter.
Regarding the Model 3, deliveries during the holiday quarter checked in at 1,542 units, a figure Tesla will have to top by an impressive margin to placate investors.