One is the continuing saga between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the SEC, with Musk firing back at the regulator on Monday over its call for Musk to be held in contempt for allegedly violating the terms of an October 2018 securities fraud settlement. The latest dust-up, which stems from a February tweet in which Musk misstated, and then corrected, a 2019 production forecast, is just one potential headwind facing the divisive electric car maker. On Tuesday, Tesla shares were down 2.6% after Morgan Stanley analysts cut their price target for the company.
Here are a few key developments to watch from Tesla in the coming weeks.
1. Renewed SEC Battle
Musk and the agency again butted heads this week in a fight that dates back to August 2018. The two parties reached a settlement last September requiring that Musk install a process for reviewing his tweets, but weeks ago, the SEC asked federal judge Allison Nathan to hold Musk in contempt for allegedly ignoring that condition of the settlement. Musk fired back at the SEC in a response on Monday, and the SEC will be filing yet another response by March 19. Nathan hasn't indicated when she'll make a decision on the contempt charge -- but if she does hold Musk in contempt, the consequences could be stiff.
2. Retail Updates
In February, many Tesla investors were downright baffled when the company said it would transition to online-only vehicle sales, only to reverse course weeks later. The initial decision "raised more questions than answers," said Jeff Osborne, a Cowen senior research analyst, given the importance of educating prospective Tesla owners in person on its technological features, such as Autopilot. In a blog post walking back the decision, Tesla said that it would keep more stores open than originally stated, albeit with smaller staffs, and continue reviewing more locations over the next several weeks. Given the scrutiny it has faced over customer service in recent months, Tesla may reveal more about its retail footprint in the weeks or months to come.
3. Autopilot Pricing
To offset the costs of keeping more stores open, Tesla said that it would raise vehicle prices by 3% on average worldwide. It isn't just vehicle prices in a state of flux, however. In early March, Tesla said it would lower the price of autonomy features like Autopilot, also repackaging the software in different ways -- a move that disappointed some existing Tesla owners who had paid full price, up-front for the features, some of which are still in development. On Monday, Musk expressed a change of heart, writing on Twitter that "in retrospect, lower price shouldn't have been offered," and said that pricing would revert to "normal" on March 18. Meanwhile, Tesla also tweaked how it describes its controversial "Full Self-Driving" package, cautioning prospective buyers that it may be a long time before the technology can be used without supervision.
4. Tesla Semi Reservations
Meanwhile, Tesla is branching out beyond personal vehicles. In 2017, the carmaker unveiled a prototype of Tesla Semi, an energy-efficient truck outfitted with autopilot and other features. This week, Tesla posted on its website that reservations are open for Tesla Semi. Those interested can reserve one of the trucks for $20,000, or a "Founders Series" for $200,000. But you may be waiting a long time -- there's no hint of a delivery date yet, nor much information on where the trucks will be produced.
5. The $35,000 Model 3
In late February, Tesla announced the long-promised $35,000-version of the Model 3, but also warned investors that it expects to post a loss in the first quarter. In a note this month, CFRA's Garrett Nelson attributed the loss to the step-down of the federal EV tax credit. Further, Nelson reasoned that "the decision to focus on lower-priced Model 3s is likely to negatively impact margins and profitability, and potentially erode brand value," issuing a sell rating on the stock. As has been the case since the Model 3 first went on sale, Tesla bears and bulls will keep up the heated debate, and analysis, over how well the Model 3 is selling.