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Tesla Surges After Record First-Quarter Deliveries, Wedbush Upgrade

Tesla shares are set to return to positive territory for the year after a record first-quarter delivery tally that could put the carmaker on pace for a blowout 2021 total.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report shares surged higher Monday after the clean-energy carmaker topped Wall Street forecasts with a record first-quarter delivery tally of nearly 185,000 and analysts at Wedbush boosted their "bull case" price target on the stock to $1,300 a share.

Tesla delivered 184,800 new cars over the three months ended in March, the company said in a Friday statement, up more than 100% from last year and largely ahead of Wall Street estimates of around 177,000 vehicles. Tesla produced 180,338 Model 3s and Model Ys, the company said, and delivered 182,780. A further 2,020 Model S and X cars were added to the delivery total.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said the first-quarter totals put Tesla on pace to exceed 850,000 deliveries for the year, a figure that would top last year's record of 499,500 by more than 70%. He lifted his price target on the stock to $1,000 a share, with a "bull case" level of $1,300, citing what he calls a "green tidal wave" thesis for the electric-vehicle space.

"In our opinion the first quarter delivery numbers released on Friday was a paradigm changer and shows that the pent-up demand globally for Tesla's Model 3/Y is hitting its next stage of growth as part of a global green tidal wave underway," Ives said. 

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"With a green tidal wave kicked off by Biden last week in the US, and global EV demand skyrocketing going after a $5 trillion (total addressable market) over the next decade, we believe these delivery numbers are a paradigm and sentiment shifter for the space going forward."

Tesla shares were marked 5.4% higher in early trading Monday to change hands at $698.14 each, a move that will nudge the stock towards positive territory for the year.

"We are encouraged by the strong reception of the Model Y in China and are quickly progressing to full production capacity," Tesla said in a statement alongside the production numbers. "The new Model S and Model X have also been exceptionally well received, with the new equipment installed and tested in Q1 and we are in the early stages of ramping production."

Tesla sold 18,318 of its China-made cars in February, the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) reported on March 8, up from 3,900 over the same period last year. Tesla's China sales were around a fifth of its overall total in 2020 - when it delivered a record 499,550 vehicles - up from just 12% in 2019.