Tesla’s corporate family rating has been upgraded two levels from Ba3 to Ba1 by Moody’s Investors Services, citing a positive outlook that the automaker will maintain its position as the leading manufacturer of EVs.
The rating Ba1 reflects Moody’s view that Tesla’s reputation as the leader of the EV industry will continue and perhaps expand as Tesla broadens its potential consumer footprint in the United States, Europe, and China. The expansion of its products and consumer base could increase deliveries to an anticipated 1.4 million units in 2022, up nearly 50% from Tesla’s 936,000 vehicle delivery mark that it accomplished in 2021. The increased manufacturing and delivery rate will be supplemented by two new factories that are expected to be operational soon: Gigafactory Texas and Gigafactory Berlin.
If Tesla was perfect, it would not have a Ba1 rating, however. While the rating is an improvement from its previous position, Moody’s still has reservations regarding the company’s reliance on the Model 3 and Model Y. This “narrowly reliant” product lineup gives Moody’s some reservations regarding Tesla’s potential for more accelerated growth. However, the Model 3 and Model Y are the most affordable vehicles in Tesla’s lineup and also pack some of the automaker’s more recent technology for a fraction of the price of its flagship Model S and Model X vehicles.
Moody’s also stated that Tesla’s manufacturing processes support the firm’s expectations for an EBITA margin to increase to 16 percent in 2022 from 12 percent in 2021. “While the margin contribution from the sale of regulatory emission credits will likely decrease, the sale of the credits added approximately 330 basis points to margin in the 12 months ended September 2021. Moody’s expects that a more competitive offering of battery electric vehicles by other automakers could start to exert some pressure on margins in 2023,” the firm added. Liquidity and cash balances are healthy, but Moody’s is keeping an eye on Tesla’s $2.3 billion asset-based revolving credit and its limitations, as an unpaid principal balance stood at $1.9 billion as of September 30, 2021.
Tesla could be upgraded again if its global footprint expands, which could occur through potential deals in India or Turkey. Additionally, if Tesla maintains a strong competitive presence as more automakers enter the sector with more robust models that are better suited against Tesla’s industry-leading vehicles, it could also see more upgrades in the future. On the balance sheet, “Tesla will need to maintain very good liquidity, including ample cash and considerable committed availability under its revolving credit facility.”
Downgrades are potentially in the forecast for Tesla as well, especially if demand for its cars begins to soften as more companies enter the sector. Additionally, if Tesla cannot sustain an EBITA margin above 5%, Moody’s said it could be concerned and downgrade the company’s rating. “A material shift in Tesla’s financial policy that signals a greater tolerance for financial risk could also cause a ratings downgrade, including if debt/EBITDA is greater than 3 times or if the amount of cash and committed revolver availability decreases considerably from current levels,” Moody’s said.
Tesla’s fourth-quarter earnings call is expected to be held on Wednesday, January 26, 2022, at 4:30 p.m. Central Time (5:30 p.m. Eastern Time).