Tesla Motors Inc hasn’t managed much success with its Model X SUV EV thus far because of limits on production, but one analyst thinks he’s discovered a secret cache of the cars as the firm’s Fremont Factory. Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research, who holds some colorful opinions about the world’s hottest tech firms, says he found some units of the Model X secreted around the firm’s compound.
It appears that Tesla Motors Inc has delivered just 13 units of the Model X since launching the car on September 29, and each one of those is a Founder’s Edition Model X. Mr. Chowdhry reckons that shipments of the car will start soon, or have already started, but his evidence is a little shaky on that front.
Tesla hides the Model X
Mr. Chowdhry used the disposition of the 6 Model X SUVs he saw as evidence of their finished nature. In his view the fact that they were hidden out of view of the public means that they are likely due to be delivered. Mr. Chowdhry said he spotted a total of six Model X SUVs around the Fremont plant, three obscured by trees, two behind another copse, and another single Model X that was “camouflaged”.
Chowdhry wrote, “We had never before seen any new Tesla Model S having a car cover on it … this is the first time we saw Model X being covered.” It’s not exactly clear how that proves, as the analyst asserts, that Tesla Motors is now shipping the car, but he links the two ideas regardless.
Mr. Chowdhry said that he “also saw enclosed Delivery Trucks,” odd, in his view, because trucks he has seen carrying the Model S “were open on all the sides.” The “trucks were at the Gate, where the completed cars leave the factory,” so “probably these trucks are not the trucks that bring parts and supplies to the Tesla factory…that’s another Gate.”
Mr. Chowdhry offers three possibilities for these trucks. either they’re filled with the Model S, the Model X, or they’re empty. The focus of his report, if it wasn’t apparent, is that middle possibility.
What is clear from Mr. Chowdhry’s report is that Tesla Motors Inc is working on the Model X at its Fremont plant, and that some units of the car have been parked around the back. There’s a lot of reasons that the cars may have been obscured including, perhaps, that they are test versions of the car that look unfinished or have other, possibly experimental, features that Tesla would prefer to keep out of Mr. Chowdhry’s reports to clients. More mundane reasons are, of course, even more likely.
It’s also clear that Tesla Motors isn’t likely to build the Model X and refuse to ship it, so forecasting that Model X shipments have begun, or are soon to begin, isn’t the riskiest assessment no matter what sort of evidence is used.
Tesla Motors really working on the Model X
Mr. Chowdhry’s report isn’t the only evidence we have of activity on the Model X line at the Tesla Motors Fremont factory. A couple of weeks ago we were furnished with photos of a brand new Model X, not obscured by any trees, in the parking lot of the plant. It wasn’t clear at that time whether the car on show was due to be shipped or whether it was just a test vehicle. Here’s a look at one of those pictures:
Our source, who like the Global Equities Research analyst visited the Fremont plant, said that they saw multiple Model X SUVs being worked on inside the factory. Another visitor, who posted about his sighting on the Tesla Motors forum claimed the same thing. There’s not much of a surprise in the info, however. Elon Musk has been pretty clear that Tesla Motors is working on the Model X, it’s the shipping schedule that the firm has been less direct about.
Estimating Model X deliveries
Given the massive delay in shipments of the Model X, very few on Wall Street are willing to put a target on the car for the fourth quarter of the year. Dan Galves of Credit Suisse has emerged with what is now the optimistic view. In a report published on November 25 Mr. Galves said he reckoned that the firm would get a couple of hundred units of the Model X out the door before New Year’s Day.
That’s a far cry from the 5,000 or so units of the Model X that Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley forecast would be shipped this year in a report published in November of 2014. Before that report Mr. Jonas, listening to the information coming out of Tesla Motors Inc , said that the firm could sell as many as 15,000 Model X SUVs in 2015.
It’s clear now that nothing like that is possible. If Tesla Motors can ramp up its production of the car to a reasonable trickle before the end of the year it’s likely that Wall Street will be content with the firm’s performance. The big issue right now is the 50,000 target that Tesla Motors has on full year sales for 2015. At this stage it’s almost impossible for the Model X to contribute in any significant way to that target.
The exact number of Model X shipments in 2015 is likely to be so low it won’t move the needle for Tesla Motors, but Wall Street will want to see a couple of hundred units of the SUV leave the Fremont plant before the end of the year. If Elon Musk and his team don’t manage that, traders will be left in the early weeks of next year still guessing about progress on the Model X, and still wondering when the firm will be able to set up a proper factory line.
Mr. Chowdhry’s tree-obscured sighting isn’t weighty enough to suggest that there is more movement that usual around the Model X right now, and there has been no information on the Tesla Motors Club forum from any Signature Model X booker on organizing delivery.
We’ll have to wait and see when the first units of the car arrive. As December melts away, more and more shareholders are going to be hoping that Tuesday’s report from Global Equities is right, and that Tesla Motors has already put a fleet of Model X EV SUVs on the road toward their buyers.