Tesla Inc's first-quarter margins are anticipated to have hit a more than three-year low as the electric-vehicle maker slashed prices to lure more buyers in the face of rising competition and a weak economy.
The world's most valuable automaker, which commands over half of the US EV market, cut sticker prices on its cars five times between January and April - a move that boosted quarterly sales in the quarter ended Mar 31 but squeezed its industry-leading profit margin.
Tesla is expected to report auto gross margin of 23.2 per cent for the quarter on Wednesday, according to 17 analysts polled by Visible Alpha, down from a record 32.9 per cent a year earlier and the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2019.
Finance chief Zachary Kirkhorn promised in January that Tesla would not go below margins of 20 per cent and an average selling price of US$47,000 across models. Analysts, however, predict further price cuts and margin pressure.
"While many investors have been hopeful that Q1 margins might be (at their) bottom, we don't believe that will necessarily be the case, particularly given our expectation that further cuts are likely," Bernstein analysts said in a note.
The company on Friday slashed prices in Europe, Israel and Singapore. In the United States, Tesla has cut the price of its base Model 3 by a cumulative 11 per cent since the start of the year, with a 20 per cent reduction in its base Model Y.
It has come under pressure as rivals such as Ford Motor Co have stepped up competition at home, even as consumers cut back spending on recession worries, while in China, Tesla's second-largest market, it is playing catch up with BYD.
Tesla faced trouble at its Shanghai factory on Monday, after employees were informed about the company's plans to cut their performance bonuses, which are linked to the factory's performance, according to online posts and workers.
The company, led by billionaire Elon Musk, has said a ramp up in production at its factories in Austin, Texas and Berlin would help improve margins due to economies of scale.
Tesla is also likely to benefit from a plunge in lithium prices this year, especially in China, where a slump in demand for EVs has left stocks of the metal piling up.
"It's probable that Tesla's margins will be preserved based on the reduction in commodity costs," said George Gianarikas, analyst at Canaccord Genuity.
Tesla is targeting deliveries of 1.8 million vehicles this year, though Musk said in January the automaker could hand out 2 million vehicles if circumstances are favorable.
The company's shares have gained about 50 per cent this year. They lost 65 per cent of their value last year.