Tesla's China Numbers Might Be Worse Than First Blush
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Tesla’s China Numbers Might Be Worse Than First Blush

After a day of confusion saw the company’s stock fall.

By Al Root
Wed, May 12, 2021 12:20pmGrey Clock 3 min

Confusion has reigned in recent Tesla trading. There has been confusion about Tesla driving features and a fatal Texas crash; the true impact of zero-emission credit sales; and now over Tesla’s April sales figures in China. One thing is certain: Investors hate confusion.

Tesla stock fell 1.9% Tuesday, but started out the day significantly lower, making the drop actually a small win for Tesla investors. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.9% and 1.4%, respectively.

Even though the stock rallied through the day, Tesla’s China sales numbers might be worse than investors initially assumed. Chinese auto industry data show Tesla sold roughly 26,000 EVs in April, down from about 35,000 in March. It’s a decline amid growth for Tesla’s Chinese EV competitors.

The confusion is over exports. Tesla also exported about 14,000 cars from China in April, according to the same industry association. So the question investors started asking analysts is: Did Tesla produce 40,000 cars in China in April, meaning the company sold 26,000 in China and exported an additional 14,000? Or did Tesla make 26,000 cars overall in China, selling 12,000 of those in China and exporting the rest?

Tesla isn’t helping untangle the numbers. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“We’ve been exchanging emails with confused clients all morning,” wrote Piper Sandler Alex Potter in a Tuesday report. His original interpretation of the numbers was that Tesla sold about 26,000 vehicles in China and exported an additional 14,000, but acknowledged the possibility that Tesla only sold about 12,000 in the country and exported the rest of the 26,000.

That would mean Tesla sales declined by nearly two-thirds month to month. But even if the answer is only 12,000 Chinese sales in April, Potter isn’t worried.

“Don’t stare too closely at these monthly numbers,” wrote the analyst. “We prefer to examine Tesla’s market share on a trailing [three-]month basis.”

He also points out that the Tesla plant in Shanghai was closed for two weeks in the first quarter, which might have sacrificed 10,000 or so vehicles. What’s more, Tesla tends to ship most of its units in the final month of the quarter.

GLJ analyst Gordon Johnson isn’t as sanguine and believes the 14,000 deliveries are part of the 26,000 figure. For him, that means Tesla has a market share problem in the world’s largest market for EVs.

Potter and Johnson’s take on the April data aligns with their ratings. Potter rates shares Buy and has $1,200 price target for the stock, the highest on Wall Street. His target price values the company at more than $1 trillion. Johnson rates shares Sell and has the lowest target price on the Street at $67 a share. His target values the company at about $80 billion, or roughly what General Motors (GM) stock is worth.

The entire April report is, frankly, confusing, adding to existing uncertainty surrounding Tesla stock.

Tesla’s driver-assistance function was initially implicated in a deadly Texas crash in April, but it looks as if the system wasn’t turned on, according to preliminary findings by the National Transportation Safety Board. In other words, that would mean the human driver crashed the car, although investors will have to wait to see the NTSB’s final report.

Tesla also reported better-than-expected first-quarter numbers in late April. The numbers, however, were boosted by Bitcoin trading profits and bigger-than-expected zero-emission credit sales—which Tesla earns for producing more than its fair share of no-emission cars and then sells to other auto makers that don’t meet zero-emission quotas.

All the confusion has weighed on shares. Tesla stock is down about 9% over the past month. The Nasdaq Composite is off 4% over the same span.

Regardless of the final interpretation, Tesla’s April sales in China dropped sequentially, while other EV makers’ deliveries rose. That isn’t what Tesla bulls want to see, and it’s another thing to worry about in coming months.

Reprinted by permission of Barron’s. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 11, 2021.



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Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”