CryptocurrencyInvestingBanksReal Estate

Tesla’s ‘Cinderella ride’ is over and demand is ‘starting to crack,’ Wedbush’s Dan Ives says. Here’s what could come next

January 3, 2023, 6:23 PM UTC
Elon Musk attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City.
Elon Musk attends the 2022 Met Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2 in New York City.
Theo Wargo—WireImage/Getty Images

Tesla delivered more cars than ever in 2022, but it still wasn’t enough to meet its own lofty forecasts. 

Elon Musk’s EV giant sent over 1.3 million cars to customers last year—a 40% year-over-year increase from 2021—despite rising interest rates and persistent inflation. But Wedbush’s tech analyst Dan Ives said that the company missed its 50% annual delivery growth target “by a country mile” on Tuesday.  

“Demand overall is starting to crack a bit for Tesla. The company will need to adjust and cut prices more especially in China, which remains the key to the growth story,” Ives wrote in a note. “That remains the worry heading into a very cloudy 2023.”

Demand issues and lofty forecasts 

On Monday, Tesla reported 405,278 total vehicle deliveries in the fourth quarter compared with a consensus Wall Street estimate for roughly 420,000. The stock fell as much as 15% on Tuesday in response to the news, and is now down nearly 75% over the past 12 months. 

Demand issues have left many Tesla investors worrying about the company’s high valuation in the market. 

Wall Street is expecting Tesla delivery growth in the 35% to 40% range for 2023, which may be too high in the current economic environment, according to Ives. But the analyst remains confident that the company can turn things around and weather any potential recession, arguing that management just needs to reset investors’ expectations with more “realistic” delivery and financial targets for next year.

“Musk & Co. need to lay out a more conservative number to hit in this jittery backdrop and rip the Band-Aid off guidance,” he wrote. 

Still, Ives—who has been one of Tesla’s biggest bulls for years—recently removed the company from Wedbush’s “Best Ideas List,” a list of top stock market picks from analysts.

“The Cinderella ride is over for Tesla, and Musk now needs to navigate the company through this Category 5 dark macro storm,” he said on Tuesday.

And with recession predictions from Wall Street underscoring the potential for reduced consumer spending in 2023, some analysts even argue Tesla stock could drop below $25 a share next year.

The bulls and the bears

Even the most bullish of analysts acknowledge that Tesla is facing short-term demand issues and struggling to meet its optimistic forecasts, but Wall Street is split on the EV giant’s future prospects.

In the bulls’ camp, Ives holds a $175 price target on Tesla shares, representing a potential 60%-plus share price jump. He argues that a lot of the recent bad news about deliveries is already priced into the stock, and that the electric vehicle boom is still “in the early innings of a major growth cycle.”

And CFRA Research’s senior equity analyst Garrett Nelson reiterated his $225, 12-month price target for shares of Tesla on Tuesday.

“After a difficult year for EV manufacturer equities such as Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian, we are bullish on TSLA in 2023,” he wrote, noting that a stock buyback could be “looming.” 

Nelson argues Tesla’s sales volumes will hit multiple “new record highs” in 2023 as the firm’s Austin and Berlin factories ramp up production; lower-price Teslas become eligible for federal EV tax credits; and the Cybertruck rolls out. 

A higher valuation for the stock is “justified by long-term growth expectations,” he said.

But Gordon Johnson, CEO of GLJ Research, isn’t so sure. Johnson, who is known as Tesla’s biggest bear, believes that rising competition and falling demand will cut Tesla’s stock price to under $25 per share by the end of next year.

He told Fortune that Tesla’s lead times—the average time customers wait to receive their vehicle—have been falling rapidly in recent months. It’s one of many signals that illustrate the company’s growth has stalled, according to the analyst.

“Their actual new orders were around 250,000 cars in the fourth quarter. That’s down quarter over quarter and down year over year,” he said. “Yet it’s valued as if it’s hyper-growth. That is why the stock is imploding.”

While Tesla bulls point to potential growth verticals for the company like robotics, semitrucks, and self-driving as possible saviors, Johnson said that he wouldn’t trust Elon Musk’s promises.

He pointed to previous forecasts that haven’t panned out—including when Musk said full–self-driving cars would be ready in six months in 2017 and Cybertruck deliveries would begin in 2021 at the start of the pandemic.

“It’s just a car company that can’t sell its capacity,” Johnson said. “Even the bearish analysts…are still way too bullish.”

Tesla did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment. The company dissolved its PR department several years ago.

Our new weekly Impact Report newsletter examines how ESG news and trends are shaping the roles and responsibilities of today’s executives. Subscribe here.