Deutsche Bank report questioning Tesla’s Robotaxi ambitions knocks $17bn off EV maker’s value

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Deutsche Bank has delivered a fresh blow to Elon Musk’s embattled EV giant Tesla in an ominous note that has resonated with investors.

The German banking giant published a briefing note Thursday airing serious concerns about Tesla’s pivot to focusing on self-driving Robotaxi technology as reports swirl that it is planning to scrap a much-anticipated cheaper model.

No new Teslas for the foreseeable

“The delay of Model 2 efforts creates the risk of no new vehicle in Tesla’s consumer lineup for the foreseeable future, which would put downward pressure on its volume and pricing for many more years,” Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner wrote.

The bank downgraded its rating of Tesla from “buy” to “hold,” and slashed its price target for the group from $189 to $123. Fortune has asked Deutsche Bank for comment.

The report was enough to push Tesla shares down 3.55% Thursday, wiping about $17 billion from the carmaker’s market capitalization.

Elon Musk’s problems at Tesla are piling up, exemplified by the $700 billion+ the carmaker has lost in value since November 2021.  

The EV market is going through a global downturn, plagued by macroeconomic issues including higher interest rates and the falling price of gas, pushing back purchases from those not considered early adopters of the technology

The latest data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) shows that sales of EVs nosedived on the continent in the last year.

Sales in Europe’s biggest market Germany plunged 29% in the year to March. Even in Norway, which is on track to become the first market to have more EVs on its roads than petrol cars, sales halved in the last year.

Tesla bulls turning

Investors have increasingly been pinning their hopes for EV darling Tesla on a much-anticipated inexpensive model to compete with the growing threat of budget Chinese EVs, spearheaded by BYD. Musk has previously said the model would begin production in Texas in 2025.

But according to a Reuters report last month, Tesla is planning to scrap its ambitions for the so-called Model 2, which was expected to go to market with a starting price of $25,000. 

Instead, the publication reports Tesla is pivoting to focus its ambitions on Musk’s vaunted self-driving Robotaxi.

Musk has denied the Reuters report. But with no obvious action plan in sight, some of Tesla’s biggest supporters are beginning to get cold feet.

Tesla bull Baron Capital, which has Tesla as its second largest holding, is one of those shaky investors.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Baron portfolio manager David Baron said the growth fund expects Tesla shares to rise 680% over the long run, but only based on expectations of an ultra-affordable car coming to market.

“The Model 2 is a crucial piece of our thesis. If they stopped that, that is investment thesis-changing,” Baron said.

Last week, another longtime Tesla bull, Wedbush’s Dan Ives, wrote that the roadmap for fully autonomous vehicles was too far in the future, and investor appetite for Tesla shares may wain in the meantime if plans for a cheap car are scrapped.

“The future of Tesla is a bit murky now… Musk needs to give the clear road map and strategic vision for the Street, with Model 2 a key component,” he wrote.

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