It's hard to believe there is any upside left in Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) , considering the stock has gained more than 530% over the past year. However, the electric carmaker continues to prove skeptics wrong. Yesterday, shares surged as much as 5%, to around $185 apiece, after Wedbush analyst Craig Irwin said the stock was worth $240. However, the recent analyst upgrade is primarily based on higher sales expectations for the company's Gen III EV, which isn't expected to hit full production until 2017.
So what near-term catalysts exist for this stock? Let's take a closer look at two things that could help Tesla pass the $200 mark before the New Year.
Ballooning sales growth
Tesla has consistently increased sales of its Model S cars every quarter so far this year. The California-based company delivered a record 5,150 vehicles in its latest quarter, up from 4,900 EVs in the first quarter of fiscal 2013. Additionally, Model S sales growth should only get stronger now that Tesla is making deliveries in Europe. There are currently 20 Tesla stores open in Europe, and three in Asia.
While Tesla says it expects to deliver slightly more than 5,000 cars in its third quarter, analysts are more optimistic. Wedbush now estimates Q3 deliveries of around 7,000 vehicles. That number would certainly be impressive. However, it may not be too far off the mark, given Tesla's reputation for conservative forecasts.
Tesla is in the early stages of an Asian invasion. The EV maker currently has retail stores in Hong Kong and Japan, with plans to open additional locations in Asia in the year ahead. Make no mistake -- the world's biggest auto market is a key piece of the puzzle for Tesla as it strives to live up to its $22 billion valuation.
If Tesla is able to replicate its North American success in the Asian market, annualized Model S sales could exceed 40,000 vehicles per year by 2014, according to a company filing. Management should give us a better view of Tesla's operations in Asia when it reports quarterly results on Nov. 4. And, if investors like what they hear, it could push the stock higher.
Importantly, Tesla is already showing signs of strong international sales in Europe. The company is on track to deliver 800 Model S cars this year in Norway alone. Tesla also plans to expand its European operations, adding stores or service centers in a total of 15 cities in Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and the U.K. before year's end.
Finally, the availability of Tesla's Supercharger Network throughout Europe should also boost international sales for the company. In fact, Tesla says:
By the end of 2014, 100 percent of the population of Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg will live within 320 km of a Supercharger station, with about 90 percent of the population in England, Wales and Sweden living within the same distance of a charging station.
This should be a big selling point for potential Tesla owners, because these Supercharger stations potentially enable European Model S drivers to travel for free within their countries, as Norway's current Supercharger network does . The company hasn't shared specific sales figures yet from these international markets. But as more details emerge next month about Tesla's opportunities overseas, it could be a major catalyst for the stock.
What's an investor to do?
Tesla is undoubtedly one of this year's best momentum stocks. Moreover, as 2013 draws to a close, it shouldn't have any problem reaching $200 per share, particularly if management delivers another solid quarter of sales growth, and prospects abroad appear on track.
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