In a May 16 email to employees, Mr. Musk appeared to signal concern when he called for examining every expense “no matter how small” as part of a “hard-core” cost-cutting push to reduce losses. “All expenses of any kind anywhere in the world, including parts, salary, travel expenses, rent, literally every payment that leaves our bank account must be reviewed,” he wrote. “It is the only way for Tesla to become financially sustainable.”
Other hurdles lie ahead. On July 1, the tax credit for Tesla buyers declines again, to $1,875, and that could further hamper sales in the United States, said Jeffrey Osborne of the investment bank Cowen & Company. “Most people think that’s when the rubber meets the road, when that tax credit drops,” he said.
On May 28, Mr. Osborne set a new target price for Tesla shares at $140, $10 below his previous target. The main reason: Cowen sees lower demand for the Model 3 this year and next.
Tesla declined to comment on the bearish reports by analysts.
For all its setbacks, the company has a fervently loyal customer base and offers technology no other automaker can match. Tannia Schrieber, a talent-management consultant from Wynnewood, Pa., bought a black all-wheel-drive Model 3 in September and especially likes the way Tesla is able to add features like extended battery range by over-the-air software updates, a capability it pioneered. “Every two weeks there’s something new and cool about the car,” she said. “I love it.”
And Mr. Musk has not let Tesla’s challenges dampen his conviction that his company will beat the odds. In April, at a meeting with analysts called Autonomy Day, he made a bold announcement: By next year, Tesla cars will be able to drive themselves. Furthermore, he declared, Tesla will have as many as a million “robotaxis” operating in an Uber-like ride service that would become a more lucrative business than selling cars.
While General Motors, Ford Motor, Waymo and Uber itself all aim to develop driverless taxis, they believe self-driving vehicles are several years away from widespread use.
“If Elon is right, they are a decade ahead of everybody,” said David Whiston, a Morningstar analyst. But Mr. Musk’s challenge is to prove it. “The market is a lot more skeptical about Elon and Tesla now,” Mr. Whiston said. “There’s a lot more concern.”