TSLA’s Breaking Point: The 2.2 Million Recall and Market Impact

2024 has begun with an unfortunate dip in fortune for leading American car manufacturer Tesla, Inc. (TSLA), as it finds itself relegated to the 10th spot on the leaderboard of the highest-valued corporations in the S&P 500. The plummeting value of Elon Musk's TSLA shares by over a quarter this year has significantly eroded the EV company's market cap to approximately $589 billion.

The downturn was initiated by TSLA's prediction of a dramatic deceleration in deliveries for the year 2024, contrasting to last year’s 21% commendable growth rate. This foreboding outlook has unnerved investors, culminating in a steady descent in TSLA's stock value.

Adding to its woes, TSLA is compelled to recall practically all the automobiles it has sold in the U.S., owing to the inadequately sized warning lights on the dashboard. The expansive recall spans about 2.2 million vehicles, such as the Model S, Model Y, and the Cybertruck, which all share the faulty warning light issue, sold between 2012 and 2024.

TSLA owners may have to grapple with yet another setback. Amid the warning light debacle, emerging reports of steering issues might necessitate a further recall of around 334,000 TSLA vehicles.

Now, let us delve into the crux of the matter…

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued multiple recalls of TSLA vehicles due to an issue with brake, park, and antilock brake warning lights. The notification displays for these crucial safety features use a font size beneath the minimum requirement established by federal standards, potentially hampering readability. This could subsequently raise the threat of collisions. The recall will be executed through over-the-air (OTA) software updates, as per the information provided by NHTSA. There is also an ongoing investigation into complaints about steering failures, which may result in an additional future TSLA recall.

Last July, NHTSA started investigating several claims regarding loss of control on the 2023 Model Y and Model 3 vehicles. TSLA has reportedly commenced the software updates already, with vehicle owners slated to receive notification letters from March 30 onwards.

Drivers reported losing control over steering, often coupled with warnings of power-assisted steering being restricted or disabled. In one instance, a driver was allegedly unable to complete a turn, resulting in a collision with another car. There were also reports of TSLA cars blocking intersections or roadways, with over 50 vehicles necessitating towing.

The current predicaments are not the only instances of issues prompting TSLA recalls. In December, an over-the-call recall curbing the use of its Autopilot feature following a two-year-long NHTSA investigation into roughly 1,000 crashes reportedly occurring while the semi-automated feature was active. Concurrently, a year ago, there was a recall of 363,000 U.S. vehicles equipped with its "full self-driving" or FSD function – a decision by NHTSA ruling citing violation of traffic regulations by FSD-enabled vehicles.

Both NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have been probing into incidents involving TSLA vehicles employing multiple driver-assist features, including crashes at the scene of other accidents involving emergency vehicles.

Meanwhile, TSLA continues to draw public and legislative attention over accusations of autopilot-contributed accidents. Furthermore, battery-related malfunctions, including fires, have been documented in TSLA vehicles. Despite the consensus on the safety of EV batteries, these events have reinforced scrutiny of EV safety norms and the possible risks intrinsic to their power storage systems.

The recent recall did not necessitate personal visits to the service center by owners of TSLA vehicles. A remote resolution was provided by the automaker, effectively negating substantial costs or liabilities stemming from the recall incident. As observed in TSLA's most recent earnings report, they allocated $2.33 billion in 2023 toward warranty provisions, a figure that accounted for 2.4% of their total annual revenue of $96.77 billion. In addition, TSLA's strong liquidity and profitability were underscored by its net income of $15 billion and an operating cash flow of $13.26 billion in the fiscal year 2023.

Despite these positive numbers, TSLA's reputation could take a hit due to a successive wave of safety concerns.

The company's future success hinges on its capacity to bolster production and delivery frameworks. Past delays in product launches and production ramp-ups could pose a recurring issue. Instances of unexpected supplier-related issues affecting the initial ramp of the first Model X and challenges in ramping full automation for specific initial Model 3 manufacturing processes are indicative of such potential difficulties.

Moreover, as TSLA aims to broaden its vehicle offerings and extend its global footprint, assurances cannot be given regarding its ability to successfully and promptly introduce and scale new and unique manufacturing methods or design elements related to new products.

In addition to the recalls, in less than two months, the EV giant temporarily suspended production at its Giga Berlin plant in Germany and recently faced significant legal repercussions. Its stocks dwindled after Germany’s SAP canceled EV procurement plans from TSLA due to delays in delivery schedules and unpredictable price variations.

TSLA’s significant price reductions on models across the U.S., China, and other regions could catalyze sales but may concurrently exert negative pressure on the company's gross margins. Increased costs of raw materials and obstacles in logistics are anticipated to produce a detrimental effect on overall performance results.

On top of these factors, financial analysts have lowered their estimates for the current year based on diminished delivery projections. Financial firm Piper Sandler shared its less-than-promising forecast for the auto manufacturer, predicting the delivery of around 1.93 million vehicles this year. This prediction corresponds to a growth rate of approximately 7%, significantly less than CEO Elon Musk's ambitious plan of achieving a 50% annual growth target he set three years ago.

For the fiscal first quarter ending March 2024, analysts expect TSLA’s revenue to increase 9.3% year-over-year to $25.49 billion, while its EPS is expected to decline 20.4% year-over-year to $0.68.

TSLA’s stock is trading below its 50-, 100-, and 200-day moving averages of $228.55, $233.28, and $232.20, respectively, indicating a downtrend.

However, Wall Street analysts expect the stock to reach $218.57 in the next 12 months, indicating a potential upside of 18.1%. The price target ranges from a low of $23.53 to a high of $345.

Bottom Line

TSLA remains a pioneering force in technological innovation, consistently spearheading the development of groundbreaking ideas and products. However, this appears to be outside the realm of safety, considering the recent recalls. As technology advances, it becomes imperative for TSLA to address safety concerns and establish transparent guidelines regarding product liability to preserve public trust and uphold stringent safety standards.

Automobile manufacturers traditionally have strategies in place to deal with warranty and recall situations, often setting aside funds reserved for such eventualities. Although a recall can potentially affect fiscal performance, it is generally unusual for one to significantly hamper quarterly earnings.

For investors, hardware recalls that necessitate physical dealership visits are usually more costly than software recalls. Given that TSLA's current major recall will be remedied through OTA software updates, its direct financial implications on the company are predicted to be minimal.

However, investors must remain vigilant for potential indirect ramifications. The recalls could detract from TSLA's credible defense in numerous prominent lawsuits relating to autopilot-linked crashes. Until now, TSLA has triumphed in these cases by underlining the necessity of active driver engagement and supervision, as stipulated in the owner's manual and online resources.

Notably, there is significant potential for the company to boost its profit margins through full self-driving subscriptions. Also, amid the expanding energy storage realm, TSLA is primed to become the leading supercharger network provider for EVs across America.

With a $3.6 billion investment dedicated to expanding the Reno, Nevada Gigafactory, TSLA is on course for mass-producing the Semi and the batteries it requires, plus the $2.4 million Megapacks. This initiative is anticipated to spur considerable sales growth due to TSLA's Lathrop, CA plant.

In mid-2025, TSLA plans to commence production of the $25,000 Redwood model – a potential game-changer in EVs. This development comes alongside the revamped Model 3 Highland and the Model Y, already the world's top-selling vehicle. These revamped models could likely boost sales performance.

TSLA's relentless focus on efficient cost reduction is expected to amplify the competition's challenges further. Established automakers looking to pivot toward EVs have been consistently losing money, leading them to postpone their plans. This could predictably prove advantageous to TSLA in the long run. Coupled with EV startups struggling to sell their limited inventory, they have been compelled to lay off newly recruited and trained employees — developments that may hinder their chances of business sustainability.

However, investors should note that TSLA faces financial headwinds amid the high-interest rate environment, which exacerbates financing costs and decreases discretionary consumer buying patterns. TSLA’s aggressive pricing strategies enacted in response to diminished demand and fierce competition have not achieved the desired impact.

Worrisome, too, is TSLA's non-GAAP forward P/E multiple of 56.57, which exceeds the industry average of 15.82. Should TSLA's market cap decrease to meet this industry average, it might significantly undermine shareholder confidence.

Investment consideration should further factor in ongoing uncertainty linked to analysts' skeptical views on the company's prospects. This skepticism represents a potential risk for current or prospective investors considering TSLA stock.

Hence, investors should consider the overall scenario and proceed with caution before investing in the stock.

Earnings Season Preview: What Lies Ahead for Banking Stocks?

Financial institutions offer various consumer financial services, encompassing current and savings accounts, online payment options, credit and debit card facilities, residential and commercial lending options, insurance coverages, and investment portfolio management. Robust consumer spending and business investment activities propel demand for these financial services.

The third-quarter earnings season will kick off with big banks this week. As banking and finance sector giants JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), BlackRock, Inc. (BLK), WaFd, Inc (WAFD), and Unity Bancorp, Inc. (UNTY) prepare to release their results, we look at what analysts expect and what could shape their prospects.

Before delving into the financial prospects of these stocks, let’s discuss the factors influencing the industry’s trajectory.

The financial sector, particularly the banking segment, has demonstrated signs of stabilization following the turmoil induced by the collapse of the regional banks. The recovery coincides with the Federal Reserve's benchmark interest rate hikes to its peak in over two decades, aiming at alleviating inflationary pressures.

In September, record-breaking 334,000 nonfarm payroll additions surpassed economists' forecasts and brought increased potential for further rate increases. This comes as an overheated job market must be balanced by cooling inflation to achieve a desirable economic "soft landing." Higher interest rates could prove advantageous to banks, typically resulting in higher net interest income.

However, the market sentiments surrounding banking stocks have been negatively impacted by the downgrades and warnings issued by top rating agencies — Moody's and Fitch. These actions have gravely spotlighted investors' anxieties concerning the industry's stability and future. Similarly, S&P Global reduced its credit ratings and outlook for several U.S. regional banks, marked by their considerable commercial real estate (CRE) exposure.

This action could lead to increased borrowing costs for the banking sector, battling to recover from previous upheavals. Furthermore, with the Fed’s interest rate hikes raising borrowing costs, banks find themselves in a situation where they must offer higher interest on deposits to retain customers considering more lucrative alternatives.

In the forthcoming weeks, the financial sector, representing more than 40% of the S&P 500 members, is set to dominate market discourse, as it is slated to reveal third-quarter earnings. According to a Factset article, the sector is predicted to record the fourth-highest quarterly earnings growth rate at 8.7% among 11 sectors.

The banking industry is anticipated to report the third-highest annual earnings growth rate at 4%. Diversified Banks are expected to achieve an earnings growth of 7% on a sub-industry level, whereas Regional Banks may report a 15% decline in earnings. Within the Capital Markets industry, Asset Management and Custody Banks are projected to record earnings growth.

Let’s now comprehend some factors that could influence the featured stocks in the near term:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)

JPM has proven its robustness and keen strategic foresight in the past few years, preparing tactically for a high-interest rate environment by stockpiling cash starting in 2021. Their fiscal prudency awarded them an advantageous position to acquire First Republic Bank under desirable terms following its seizure by federal regulators earlier this year.

The second quarter saw a surge in JPM's revenue and net income, boosted by higher interest rates and the well-timed acquisition of First Republic Bank. These successful endeavors are testaments to the bank's competent management and foresight.

Looking forward to the imminent week, JPM is expected to exceed expectations with its third-quarter earnings – a result of excellent performance across its primary business sectors.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the banking giant stands ready to record the fastest earnings-per-share growth compared to other major U.S. investment banks this reporting season.

The slump in trading revenues and investment banking fees was offset by the bank's net interest income increase of 27% during the quarter. According to Piper Sandler, despite persistently high interest rates, the bank might surpass its annual net interest income guidance.

For the fiscal third quarter ending September 2023, JPM’s revenue and EPS are expected to increase 20.2% and 24.8% year-over-year to $39.31 billion and $3.89, respectively.

Beyond these impressive forecasts, it is noteworthy that JPM surpassed consensus revenue and EPS estimates in each of the trailing four quarters.

BlackRock, Inc. (BLK)

BLK is recognized globally as a top-tier provider of investment, advisory, and risk management solutions, risks facing adversity due to escalating interest rates. An upward trajectory in interest rates stands to diminish the demand for bonds and fixed-income securities, which serve as substantial income generators for BLK.

As interest rates climb, bond prices take a downturn, prompting investors to explore other asset classes or seek out richer yields in alternative locations. This scenario can potentially depress the value of BLK’s assets under management (AUM) and any fees garnered from managing these assets.

Further concerning is that BLK leans heavily on debt to fuel its operations and fund acquisitions. As of June 30, 2023, the firm registered $7.96 billion in total long-term borrowings. For the six months that ended June 30, 2023, BLK paid approximately $89 million in interest on long-term notes.

The firm's EPS is projected to take an 11.5% year-over-year plunge to $8.45 for the fiscal third quarter ending September 2023 as it grapples with decelerating institutional flows and the impacts of foreign-currency headwinds.

On a brighter note, the company’s revenue for the same quarter is forecasted to increase 5.6% year-over-year to $4.55 billion. The company topped consensus EPS estimates in the trailing four quarters and consensus revenue estimates in three of the trailing four quarters.

WaFd, Inc (WAFD)

Regional bank WAFD offers various financial products and services, encompassing current and savings accounts, mortgages, loans, and investments.

A potential rise in interest rates could boost the bank’s net interest income, as evidenced by its third-quarter net interest income results that reached $168.70 million, marking an 11.2% year-on-year increase.

Over the past three years, the bank has achieved impressive growth, with EPS escalating by 18.3% CAGR. If WAFD maintains this trajectory, shareholders should be thoroughly satisfied.

Furthermore, over the past three years, the company's revenue and net interest income expanded at CAGRs of 9% and 13.8%, respectively, highlighting the solid caliber of WAFD’s growth.

One point of concern lies in the bank's substantial reliance on debt. For the last reported quarter that ended June 30, 2023, WAFD reported borrowings of $3.60 billion at an interest rate of 3.76%.

Moreover, for the fiscal fourth quarter ending September 2023, WAFD’s revenue is anticipated to decline 4.3% year-on-year to $180 million, while EPS is expected to decline 16.2% year-over-year to $0.90.

Unity Bancorp, Inc. (UNTY)

UNTY, a community-oriented bank in Clinton, New Jersey, is well-positioned to capitalize on its robust fundamentals, solid loan and deposit balances, and diverse fee-income sources.

It is a conservatively managed organization that has constantly been acknowledged as a top-tier community bank. Although not exempt from the challenges faced by the broader banking sector, UNTY seems well-prepared to confront these difficulties while retaining the confidence and favor of the communities it serves.

The bank's revenue and net interest income expanded at CAGRs of 14.8% and 17%, respectively, over the past three years, justifying its strong growth trajectory.

UNTY's main earnings source, net interest income, decreased marginally sequentially by $0.4 million to $23.5 million. The decline was due to the cost of interest-bearing liabilities rising faster than the yield of interest-earning assets, causing a slight decrease in net interest margin to 4.04%.

Mixed analyst estimates about the company’s potential are evident as UNTY’s EPS is expected to decline 4.3% year-on-year to $0.89, while its revenue is expected to increase 1.2% year-over-year to $25.15 million for the fiscal third quarter ending September 2023. Moreover, the stock has topped the consensus EPS and revenue estimates in three of the trailing four quarters.

Furthermore, UNTY experiences rapid growth and has strategically chosen to pay out a minimal fraction of its earnings as dividends to shareholders, opting instead to reinvest back into the business. This approach promises to generate significant value for investors over time. Over the past three and five years, UNTY's EPS has grown at CAGRs of 22.4% and 19.2%, while dividend payouts grew at 13.7% and 12.6% over the same periods.