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Tesla, Buoyed by Strong Model 3 Orders, May Need More Cash

An initial flurry of orders has put Tesla Motors' new Model 3 sedan off to a fast start, but the company may need to raise more cash if it hopes to deliver the new electric vehicle to customers on time, analysts said on Friday.

Tesla's stock price bounced around $237 in afternoon trading after opening at nearly $248, the highest mark in six months. Up to Thursday's close, Tesla stock had soared 60 percent since hitting a 12-month low in February.

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Chief Executive Elon Musk's ambitious plans include launching the Model 3, Tesla's first mass-market car, in late 2017 and boosting the company's annual production tenfold to 500,000 by 2020.

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But there are concerns among some investors in Tesla, which has promised to turn profitable this year, even after the hoopla and exuberance surrounding the unveiling late on Thursday of a Model 3 prototype.

On Friday, Musk said the company had taken orders for 198,000 Model 3s in the first 24 hours. Analysts questioned how long it could take to deliver those cars after the slower-than-expected launch of the company's Model X sport utility vehicle late last year.

Higher-than-expected demand could mean that some customers making early reservations may not take delivery until 2019 or 2020, analysts said.

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, a longtime Tesla booster, predicted the Silicon Valley car maker's sales will hit just under 250,000 in 2020, but maintained a bullish $333 price target on the stock.

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Barclays analyst Brian Johnson, with a bearish $165 price target, believes the surge of Model 3 reservations — each accompanied by a refundable $1,000 deposit — could reach 300,000 by the end of June.

The higher-than-expected number of orders could "set the stage for an equity offering" after the company's first-quarter results are posted, Johnson said.

Much of any additional cash raised this year will be needed for Tesla's new U.S. factories, as well as for further product development, Johnson said.

While the Model 3 will have a starting price of $35,000, some analysts expect the first cars will sell for an average of $50,000-$60,000. Tesla prices its current models in several "tiers," depending on content and optional features.