New Tesla Crossover Stirs Worry It Will Crimp Model 3 Demand

(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Inc. will soon unveil its Model Y crossover vehicle, and that’s prompting concerns about a potential cannibalization of sales at a time when investors are already worried about demand for the company’s cars.

Elon Musk on Sunday tweeted that the Model Y event will be held on March 14 at Tesla’s Los Angeles design studio, adding that since the car will be about 10 percent bigger than Model 3, it would cost about that much more and have slightly less battery range.

“While we suspect this could be a very good (and in-demand) product, we view the timing of the announcement as more fodder for the bears vs being a positive catalyst for the stock,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak wrote in a note to clients. With the consumer preference in the U.S. moving away from sedans to larger vehicles, announcing Model Y could also hurt demand for Model 3. “We had thought the company would unveil the vehicle closer to start of production to avoid likely cannibalization. Now, that risk seems greater,” Spak added.

New Tesla Crossover Stirs Worry It Will Crimp Model 3 Demand

Although the design unveiling comes in two weeks, the Model Y won’t be available to customers until much later. Baird analyst Ben Kallo doesn’t expect the car to be available for more than 18 months, and sees that potentially mitigating the risk of cannibalization.

“We think the SUV/CUV market is larger than sedan and growing more quickly in the United States, and we think the introduction of a more competitively-price[d] vehicle could drive higher sales and share gain,” Kallo wrote in a note.

What Bloomberg Intelligence says:

“The Model Y would give Tesla a volume truck that better aligns with U.S. demand if it’s more than merely a higher-riding Model 3. Opening the reservation queue gets the company some interest-free borrowing via cash deposits to fund the new production line -- though it’s unlikely to match the outpouring for the Model 3.”
-- Kevin Tynan, North America Autos analyst
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Tesla shares just had a manic week, swinging from a low of about $289 to a high of $320, as Musk tussled with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said he didn’t expect Tesla to turn a profit in the first quarter and debuted a $35,000 version of the Model 3. Tesla closed 7.8 percent lower Friday, a move that financial analytics firm S3 Partners LLC said was driven by long shareholders as bears stuck to their guns.

The current week has kicked off on a similar note, starting with the Model Y tweet on Sunday, followed by a scathing, bearish report on Monday. The company also filed for confidential treatment of the information that it excluded from the exhibits to the Form 10-K filed on Feb. 18. Tesla has about 20.3 percent of its free float held short, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners.

The stock dropped as much as 3.3 percent in New York on Monday, touching their lowest intraday level since Jan. 24.

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