Why Tesla's Big Sell-Off Means Nothing


Tesla Motors is down about 12% today on disappointing (in the eyes of the Street) third-quarter results. While traders scramble to make their moves on the big price swing, and the Street analysts rush to adjust their price targets, Foolish investors can kick back and relax.

Mr. Market's silliness
Quarterly results may be dramatic for overly active traders, but for Foolish investors, they're just one small piece of a large puzzle. When Tesla reported earnings yesterday, the electric-car maker actually slightly outperformed consensus analyst estimates. That sparks the notion that guidance was the major culprit behind the sell-off. And, in this case, that may be true.

Word on the Street was that VIN number tracking going on over at Tesla's online forums might have indicated that Tesla was ramping up production more rapidly than expected. One analyst even seems to have considered this dubious VIN tracking as one of his reasons for boosting his Tesla price target to $200. As it turns out, however, Q3 vehicle deliveries seem to be tracking only slightly higher than Tesla guided for -- at 5,500, compared to guidance for "slightly over" 5,000. For the full-year, delivery estimates were boosted by just 500 vehicles, from 21,000, to 21,500.

But does Tesla's ramp-up in production really merit a sell-off to the tune of nearly $2 billion, just because it wasn't rapid enough for the Street? Tesla even emphasized in the second-quarter-earnings call that it doesn't expect to work out its supply chain bottlenecks until 2014.

Tesla's growth story remains intact
As weekly production rates continue to improve, and Tesla continues to outperform its own guidance for vehicle deliveries, there's no reason to believe that Tesla's growth story is any different today than it was before the company reported third-quarter results. Despite the Street's emotional disappointment, Tesla's Model S remains a blockbuster, and its global expansion continues rapidly.

The company is still supply limited. In fact, demand doesn't seem to be an issue at all for Tesla. "Demand exceeds supply, despite no advertising, no discounts and no paid endorsements," management said in Tesla's third-quarter letter to shareholders. And investors shouldn't let Tesla's third-quarter sequential decline in North American deliveries worry them, either. Musk explained in the earnings call that reservations in North America were actually up sequentially, as the company constrained North American deliveries in order to fulfill European orders.

Tesla's making enormous progress on its international expansion. With Supercharging infrastructure in Norway already reaching nearly the entire population, Germany is Tesla's next international priority. Tesla says it will have half of the country covered with even faster 135-kW Supercharger stations by March 2014, and have complete coverage by the middle of 2014. Beyond Germany, Tesla expects that, by the end of 2014, "the entire population of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg and about 90 percent of the population in England, Wales and Sweden will live within 320 km of a Supercharger station," management said in the third-quarter letter to shareholders. In China, Tesla has already begun taking orders, and plans to deliver its first vehicle in the country next year.

Finally, at a 10,000-foot view, this stock is ultimately priced for its more affordable third-generation car, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk hopes will resonate with the mass market -- and nothing in the quarter suggested this story has changed.

What should investors do?
I'd say the best plan of action at this point would be to do absolutely nothing. If you already believed Tesla was overvalued, a 10% sell-off isn't necessarily large enough to make this growth stock look enticing. If you were already a Tesla shareholder with faith in the company's growth story, there wasn't one item in the report that indicated Tesla's long-term story is any less exciting.

Demand is hot, international expansion is unraveling rapidly, and the outlook looks as bullish as ever. While the shortsighted traders make their moves, Foolish investors can kick back and relax -- Tesla's Q3 results simply confirm an existing story.

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The article Why Tesla's Big Sell-Off Means Nothing originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Daniel Sparks has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Originally published