Stock Market

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) stock certainly has many powerful, positive catalysts at this point. Among these drivers are the rapid growth of electric vehicle sales in China, the U.S., and Europe, and Tesla’s very powerful brand. Additionally, the U.S., the E.U., and China are all taking legal and regulatory steps to greatly boost the deliveries of EVs in their jurisdictions. Those changes should greatly help Tesla, since it is, of course, one of the world’s largest EV makers.

Conversely, however, Tesla also has important weaknesses and threats. In the latter categories are its rapidly rising competition, its significant  price cuts, regulatory issues, the minor technical issues that reportedly often afflict the automaker’s EVs, the fact that TSLA has not been able to stay ahead of its competitors when it comes to autonomous driving, the uncertainty regarding the demand for its Semi and Cybertruck, and the high valuation of Tesla’s shares.

Right now, because of these weaknesses and threats, TSLA stock is not a buy.

But the automaker could take a number of steps that would make Tesla’s shares worthy again. TSLA, however, does not necessarily have to accomplish all of these objectives to make its stock attractive again.

No. 1: Significantly Advance Its Autonomous Software

Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s strategy appears to be based on the idea that the automaker can boost its margins and overcome its competition by selling subscriptions to its autonomous software.

But that strategy will only work, in my opinion, if Tesla can offer very advanced autonomous software that at least keeps pace with that of competitors. And so far, Tesla appears to be failing on that front.

That’s because its Full Self-Driving software has not yet reached Level 3 autonomy, while Chinese EV maker Xpeng (NASDAQ:XPEV) appears to be getting close to launching fully autonomous EVs and Mercedes-Benz says that its vehicles have reached Level 3 autonomy.

Other threats on the horizon include Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Waymo, General Motors’ (NYSE:GM) Cruise, and Aurora Innovations (NASDAQ:AUR), all of which have developed autonomous software that is currently being used on public roads.

By catching up to these competitors TSLA could make its shares much more attractive.

No. 2: Demonstrate Strong Demand for Its Semi Truck and Cybertruck

The Tesla Semi seemed to hold a great deal of potential for Tesla, since each of the trucks can reportedly save companies $70,000 annually, while Musk reported that it “has triple the power [of] any diesel truck on the road right now.” Yet Tesla hasn’t released detailed information about how many of the trucks it has sold and whether the companies that have received the trucks are satisfied with them.

Given the extent to which firms rely on trucks, the high profits each trucks generates, and Tesla Semi’s reported competitive advantages, the Semi could be a real, positive game changer for Tesla and TSLA stock.

Similarly, since light trucks tend to have high margins, so too could the Cybertruck greatly improve Tesla’s financial results and outlook. But the EV has not yet been released, so it’s impossible to know how strong the demand for it will be.

By proving to investors that the Semi and Cybertruck can meaningfully boost its financial results, Tesla could help make TSLA stock a buy.

No. 3: Improve Its ‘Blocking and Tackling’

As I reported in a previous column, a Tesla owner recently wrote about “the high maintenance costs” of his Model 3. The author’s EV had many minor problems, including alignment difficulties, a problematic aero shield, and issues with a cooling valve. The complaints were similar to others I’ve heard and read over the years about Tesla’s EVs.

Indeed, in November 2022, Consumer Reports found that Tesla was “one of the most unreliable brands in America.”

In general, the company’s EVs, it seems, look very good, their software is impressive, and they drive very well. However, they tend to have both very significant and annoying maintenance issues. I believe that these issues could be “elephants in the room” that are limiting demand. If the company could improve its performance in those areas, I believe that the demand for Tesla’s EVs would tremendously climb.

No. 4: Paid Advertising

Historically, Tesla has not paid for advertising, relying instead on publicity generated by Musk on media outlets, positive mentions of Tesla  on social media, the strength of its brand, and traditional “word of mouth” publicity.

But many things have changed for Tesla. Musk has become a polarizing figure, limiting the extent to which much of the media will give his company free, positive coverage and, in my opinion, reducing the number of upbeat mentions on social media that Tesla receives.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned earlier, the automaker’s competition has greatly ramped up. Given these points, I believe that Tesla would benefit significantly from paid ads at this point.

As of the date of publication, Larry Ramer owned shares of XPEV. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

Larry Ramer has conducted research and written articles on U.S. stocks for 15 years. He has been employed by The Fly and Israel’s largest business newspaper, Globes. Larry began writing columns for InvestorPlace in 2015. Among his highly successful, contrarian picks have been PLUG, XOM and solar stocks. You can reach him on Stocktwits at @larryramer.

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