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Tesla Stock Down 8% as Wall Street Worries the Automaker Is ‘Losing Its Halo’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk teased his Twitter followers this week that big news was coming. The day after that news dropped—Tesla is finally selling its promised $35,000 Model 3, but it’s shutting retail stores to pay for it—the company’s stock tumbled nearly 8% as analysts worried about Tesla’s outlook.

Tesla’s stock is often volatile as bulls and bears wrestle over whether Musk can meet the audacious goals he often sets for the automaker. To get there, Musk often makes unorthodox moves, such as shuttering most of the Tesla car lots to deliver on a two-year-old promise of $35,000 Model 3’s. This time, Wall Street is greeting Musk’s bold moves with more than a note of caution.

On Friday, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas wondered whether Tesla’s focus on lower-cost electric cars could dim its “halo” as a luxury brand. “Tesla significantly increased its efforts to promote the sale of cheaper cars,” Jonas said. “While this may stabilize the air-pocket in Q1 sales, we’re concerned it’s a sign of a brand that may be, at the margin, losing its halo of exclusivity.”

Jonas concluded, “We think the bears have more material to work with than bulls here.”

Other analysts took an even more critical tone, with Barclays referencing The Matrix’s red-pill, blue-pill choice as one that Tesla investors may be facing. “Another few ‘blue pill’ bull case points undermined,” Barclays wrote in a research note.

“As we have long argued, the bull case for Tesla often revolves around it being the next Apple, with the Model 3 as the iPhone,” Barclays’ note said. “But today’s announcement of a lower priced $35k Model and closing all stores/galleries undercuts a few of those pillars.”

Not all analysts were concerned about Tesla’s news this week. Barron’s, noting a divide between bearish Wall Street analysts and the bullishness of independent research shops, quoted New Street Research’s Pierre Ferragu as saying, “Tesla is likely to take at least 20% market share of the luxury market over the next five to 10 years, and that means it will be selling three million cars a year at some point.”