A closer look at Tesla’s (TSLA) confusing Q1 2023 analyst consensus

There was no doubt that Tesla delivered a record number of vehicles in the first quarter of 2023. What was quite confusing, however, was whether the electric vehicle maker exceeded or fell short of analyst expectations. This became a pain point online, as reports following the company’s release of its Q1 vehicle delivery and production figures resulted in vastly different narratives. 

On Sunday, Tesla announced the delivery of 422,875 vehicles in Q1, surpassing the 405,278 delivered in Q4 2022 and setting a new quarterly record. The company also revealed that it produced a total of 440,808 vehicles from January to March 2023. Similar to past quarters, the lion’s share of Tesla’s vehicle deliveries and production is comprised of the Model 3 sedan and Model Y crossover. 

Following the release of Tesla’s Q1 results, numerous publications promptly published their respective reports. This is where things got confusing, as the analyst consensus cited in media reports varied. This variation resulted in articles claiming that Tesla either exceeded or fell short of expectations. 

Citing estimates from analysts surveyed by FactSet, publications such as The Wall Street JournalCNBC, and Reuters interpreted Tesla’s Q1 results as a miss. The publications noted that analysts surveyed by FactSet expected the electric vehicle maker to deliver about 432,000 vehicles in the first quarter. FactSet’s estimate, however, was built on only 10 estimates, as noted by Barron’s, which interpreted Tesla’s results in a more positive light. 

Bloomberg, for its part, noted that the median estimate of analysts that it surveyed for Tesla’s Q1 deliveries was 421,164 vehicles. The publication thus interpreted Tesla’s Q1 results as the company beating analysts’ expectations. Bloomberg’s numbers are quite close to Tesla’s own compiled estimates, which listed 421,519 vehicle deliveries as the consensus. 

Tesla’s consensus actually listed the firms which provided their respective estimates for the electric vehicle maker’s Q1 results. As per the EV maker, the company-compiled consensus for Q1 2021 is comprised of analysts from Baird, Barclays, Bernstein, Bank of America, Canaccord, Citibank, Cowen, Daiwa, Deutsche Bank, Evercore ISI, Goldman Sachs, Guggenheim, Jefferies, JP Morgan, Mizuho, Morgan Stanley, New Street Research, Oppenheimer, Piper Sandler, RBC, Truist, Tudor, UBS, Wedbush, and Wolfe. 

Tesla’s Head of Investor Relations Martin Viecha has issued a word of caution about analyst consensus estimates. “It’s always suspicious if someone says they’re using consensus without being clear about how many estimates are included. Low estimate count equals inaccurate consensus. If in doubt…just use Bloomberg or FactSet consensus, as long as there are 20-30 estimates,” Viecha noted. 

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