Tesla sees booming 2022 sales, but Wall Street warns of 'degrees of complication'

Tesla's (TSLA) shares closed higher on Friday after an unusually volatile week in which the electric vehicle company posted fourth quarter earnings that, while better than estimates, gave at least a few Wall Street analysts grounds for skepticism over its ambitious 2022 goals.

The automaker beat expectations during the final stretch of 2021, with double digit revenue and gross margin growth. Tesla sales will comfortably grow above 50% in 2022 compared with last year despite supply chain problems, CEO Elon Musk said, thanks to their new factories starting up and current plants boosting output.

Still, Tesla was fairly coy about the year ahead, with some market watchers disappointed that the company failed to articulate plans for a lower-priced model. Absent concrete forward-looking plans, some analysts find themselves in the cautious camp, and see headwinds forming to slow Tesla's momentum.

“I’m a bit shy of their forecast of 50% growth. I think it's gonna be tough by the second half of the year. It honestly may not even be tested if there might not be an up semi supply for them to deliver 50% growth,” Colin Langan, a Wells Fargo auto analyst, told Yahoo Finance on Thursday.

“I really do have my skepticism that they could actually sell. So in my model, I don't have them hitting it,” the analyst added.

'Degree of complication'

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Bank of America analysts were also anticipating more details on the company's timeline in ramping up production for company's Austin and Berlin facilities. In a research note this week, the bank noted "little definitive guidance was provided other than the current status in both plants, which was disappointing."

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley pointed to the Berlin factory as a source of concern.

"While the details are still foggy, we believe investors should prepare for the situation around Tesla’s German factory to be potentially much more politically entangled than people realize today," the bank said ominously.

"The story of Giga Berlin is not just a Tesla growth story, it’s a German labor and [growth] story. With great advancement comes a degree of complication," the note said to clients.

Morgan Stanley warned that Tesla factories have been “running below capacity for several quarters” because of supply chain issues. The automaker also said that it would not roll out new models such as the Cybertruck, Roadster, and Semi— all of which have missed their scheduled production dates.

“Once they get Austin and Berlin off the ground, they'll have about 2 million units of capacity based on my estimates,” Langan told Yahoo Finance.

“The Model S and Model Y are gonna predominantly be what's driving that utilization, that's gonna put them up there with the bestselling mass market vehicles,” the analyst added.

That means competing with large foreign competitors such as Toyota Motor (TM), which in 2019 sold about 2.2 million vehicles for their Camry and RAV4 models, according to Langan – signaling “that’s kind of the levels you need.”

Toyota's offerings also underscore a dramatic price difference between it and Tesla. “The RAV4 is about a $28,000 vehicle at base” versus Tesla’s “model Y is [between] $58 to $59,000 vehicle based price,” Langan said.

That represents "twice the price and supposed to do the same volume, that’s a very high hurdle. It'll really be tested in the second half of this year once the capacity's online,” he added.

Colin Rusch, senior research analyst at Oppenheimer, has an outperform rating on the stock, but said the focus for driving future earnings will be “related to cost” compared to their peers.

Tesla's stock, whipsawed during the week as the broader EV sector and semiconductor stocks also hit a rough patch, closed 2% higher above $846.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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