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Published on January 5th, 2019 | by Frugal Moogal

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Tesla FUD: Tax Credit & Tesla Pricing — #TSLA

January 5th, 2019 by  


The goal of this series is to examine current topics being written about Tesla [TSLA] that appear to be stirring up “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt” (or FUD). The plan is to try to provide reasonable analysis about the validity of the claims. I generally do not link to the articles that “inspire” me to write this, as I do not wish to reward analysis I feel is poor with increased traffic. However, I will freely admit that my analysis may contain incorrect assumptions, and will do my best to acknowledge them in future articles.

If you somehow missed it, Tesla just announced Q4 deliveries totaling 90,700 vehicles, and that the company was dropping the price of its vehicles by $2,000 in response to the phaseout of the federal EV tax credit.

The stock price responded by dropping almost 7% on the day.

There is actually a TON to unpack in Tesla’s Q4 communication, and I intend to do that soon, but I wanted to briefly touch on the believed reason for the stock hit — the price drop on the vehicles and the supposed “price ceiling” to Tesla’s current offerings.

Before I go on, my usual boilerplate paragraph about my stock: I’ll note that I remain a Tesla shareholder with a whopping 8 shares, with no intention to add to or sell that stake. I do think that Tesla remains a risky investment for a plethora of reasons that I won’t get into right now (a few people commented that they want to hear that, so I need to think about how to explain it without creating my own Tesla FUD article…), but also one that has the potential to increase astronomically in the future, which is why I decided to purchase and hold a very limited number of shares. I would not suggest anyone use the following article as their sole data point to decide to invest nor sell shares in Tesla.

What Did The Market Expect?

I don’t get what the market wanted Tesla to do here.

Like it or not, the federal EV tax credit is considered to be a discount on the purchase to nearly all buyers of EVs. Every other time we have had a market where EV credits or rebates have phased out, we have generally seen a surge in demand followed by a sudden drop in demand, especially if the pricing of the vehicles remains the same.

Duh?

Between Black Friday and Christmas, Microsoft knocked $100 off its Xbox One S console, making it just $199 to get one. It was advertised as a limited time promotion, and today the same console does indeed cost $299 to purchase. Is anyone expecting Microsoft will sell the same number of Xbox One S consoles this month as it did last month? If so, they seem to have missed some lessons on supply and demand, and the impact of pricing on that demand.

Tesla’s Response

Tesla decided to offset the $3,750 reduction in the federal tax credit by reducing the cost of its vehicles by $2,000. To me, it’s a genius move for a whole variety of reasons. I’m trying to keep this article short, so here’s a quick rundown of some of the positives here:

  • Auto loans don’t take into account the tax credit (that has to be claimed by the individual who owns the car), meaning that this makes the monthly payments for purchasing a new car cheaper. Most people take out loans to purchase cars.
  • Tesla is making more than $2,000 in profits off all of its cars. It can reduce the price and still make money.
  • According to Tesla, more than ¾ of Model 3s sold were to new customers, not reservation holders, meaning that new Model 3 demand was more than 45,000 vehicles. Considering that Tesla hasn’t started international deliveries, that means that demand remained very strong. Some of that demand may have been moved up due to the tax credit expiring, but not all of it.

Let’s also remember, Tesla hasn’t pulled several demand levers for the Model 3 — in particular, international sales and the start of leasing.


Conclusion

I have been accused of being a Tesla shill in the comments before, and I guess this article may continue that trend, as my conclusion for this one is simple: Not just did I expect Tesla to make a move like this (I expected it to be a slightly larger reduction, actually), but the scale of Tesla’s EV production leaves the company in a much stronger position to reduce pricing to raise demand as the tax credit begins its phaseout process than other automakers producing electric vehicles.

In short, I don’t understand the reaction here.

If you think I’m overly positive on this one, leave me a comment explaining why — the more detail, the better. I intend to write a longer article soon unpacking how the tax credit affects demand, and different demand levers that I expect Tesla can and will use to keep that demand up, and I’ll do my best to incorporate and reply to any comments I get.

 
 

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About the Author

A businessman first, the Frugal Moogal looks at EVs from the perspective of a business. Having worked in multiple industries and in roles that managed significant money, he believes that the way to convince people that the EV revolution is here is by looking at the vehicles like a business would.



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