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Tesla shares turbocharge as Model 3 booking orders race past estimates

business Updated: Apr 01, 2016 21:54 IST

People wait in line near a Tesla Motors store in Pasadena, California, to place deposits on the electric car company's mid-priced Model 3 on Friday.(Reuters)

Shares of Tesla Motors Inc jumped 8% to their highest in six months on Friday after the electric car maker said orders for its new Model 3 sedan - its first car aimed at the mass market - had sped past 130,000 in the first 24 hours.

The Model 3, considered a make-or-break product for Tesla, was unveiled by Tesla chief executive Elon Musk on Thursday.

A survey by brokerage Evercore ISI ahead of the unveiling showed that investors had expected about 55,000 orders during the first 72 hours and 117,000 by the end of the year.

The sleek four-door car, which will travel 215 miles on a single charge, will go into production next year and be ready for deliveries in the United States in late 2017 at a starting price of $35,000.

Up to Thursday’s close, Tesla’s stock price had soared 60% since hitting a 12-month low in February as investors bet on the success of the Model 3.

The stock was trading $245.84 shortly after the opening.

The unveiling “exceeded all expectations”, Evercore ISI analyst George Galliers said in a client note.

“To us the vehicle is ‘the game changer’ and will likely play a critical role in Elon Musk’s desire to expedite the auto industry’s transition from internal combustion engine to electric.”

“Yet again, it seems that investors are expecting Tesla to tear up the rule book,” he said.

The Model 3 is crucial for Tesla to reach its goal of selling 500,000 cars per year by 2020. (REUTERS)

Tesla, which was established in 2003, had sold less than 110,000 vehicles in its history through December, Sanford C. Bernstein analysts noted.

Read | Sneak peek: Tesla unveils $35,000-Model 3, release set for 2017

“In 24 hours, Tesla surfaced as many serious buyers as it has converted into customers in its existence,” Bernstein analyst Mark Newman said in a research note. “That is the opportunity the car maker is tapping into.”

Those ordering the car - many of whom had queued up in the hundreds outside Tesla stores - were required to put down a refundable deposit of $1,000.

However, UBS analyst Colin Langan - who has a “sell” rating on Tesla - said the initial orders may not translate into a sustainable annual rate.

Many buyers, he said, were getting orders in early in time to take advantage of a $7,500 electric car tax credit that will phase out in the quarter after an automaker hits 200,000 in electric car sales. Tesla is likely to hit the 200,000 mark in mid-2018, Langan said.

Analysts believe that most of the orders for the Model 3 were placed before its unveiling, and they expect orders to pick up at a steady pace over the coming months.

One driver will be price.

The Model 3 is more affordable than comparable cars from BMW AG and Mercedes, Galliers said, noting that BMW had sold 444,000 of its 3-Series cars and Mercedes about 470,000 C-Class vehicles last year.

The Model 3 will also compete with General Motors Co’s Chevrolet Bolt EV, which is expected to launch later this year.