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The rap against Tesla has always been of the “yes, but” variety. Yes, it’s a fine artisanal designer and manufacturer of electric cars and its CEO is one of the few business leaders alive for whom the label “visionary” isn’t hyperbolic. But Elon Musk’s auto company can’t seem to make very many vehicles and will run out of money long before it figures how.
Tesla (TSLA) offered new grist for the bears Tuesday, with an earnings report that copped to a hellish manufacturing situation for its game-changing, $35,000 Model 3 sedan. Tesla has humiliated established carmakers with its brilliant vision. But Detroit, Turin, Stuttgart, and so on have understood scale as well as capital allocation for decades. Such gargantuan tasks could yet humiliate Tesla.
The company’s fans hang on. Gene Munster, a Wall Street analyst turned venture-capitalist/analyst, published a report promising Tesla “will be worth the wait.” One set of Munster’s statistics stands out, though, in describing Tesla’s plight. Munster reckons Tesla has accepted 475,000 pre-orders for Model 3s. Munster thinks Tesla will be able to make just 2,500 Model 3s in the fourth quarter. Were that production level to remain unchanged, it would take Tesla nearly 50 years to deliver on its promises. Even at the 190,000 rate Munster predicts for all of 2018–and Tesla rarely hits its goals–competitors will be onto a new model before pre-orders are satisfied.
The bears, by the way, finally appear to be more numerous than the bulls, at least for today. Tesla’s stock was off more than 6% on the news.
Under Armour (UAA), whose run of sales growth has ended, is doing away with its line of wearable fitness trackers. That’s a formidable graveyard that now includes products by Nike (NKE), Jawbone, Pebble, and Microsoft (MSFT). Another tough business.