Tesla Motors, Inc. Stock This Week: The 70D and 2015 Model S Reviews

By Markets Fool.com

After shares fell as low as $185 at the end of March, Tesla stock continued rebounding this week, gaining about 10% -- on top of a 3% rise last week. For anyone following Tesla stock, here's a review of the most notable items the past week had to offer.

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Model S charging. Source: Tesla Motors.

Tesla introduces the 70D
Wednesday morning, Tesla announced a 70-kilowatt-hour-powered Model S with dual-motor all-wheel drive, called the 70D. The 70D Model S offers 240 miles of range -- about in the middle of its highest-range 85D and its lowest-range 60 Model S, which have 270 and 208 miles of range, respectively. With the launch of 70D, Tesla replaced its previous entry-level 60 kWh Model S, which it retired from production.

Model S. Along with debuting the 70D, Tesla introduced three new colors, including the "warm silver" pictured here. Image source: Tesla Motors.

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While the 70D is about $4,000 more than Tesla's previous base model, it's a whole lot more car. As detailed in an article earlier this week, the 70D raises the bar in acceleration, top speed, motor configuration, and more.

The far better value in the 70D relative to the 60 is a testament to Tesla's progress in achieving greater scale in manufacturing, and a continued decline in the cost for lithium-ion batteries.

Solid Q1 deliveries
While Tesla's 70D may have been the biggest Tesla news this week, it was the company's Friday-evening report last week that served as the primary catalyst behind the stock's gain this week, sending shares up about 6% on Monday.

Tesla said it delivered 10,030 new cars during Q1, up 55% from the year-ago quarter, and up 2% sequentially. Those 10,030 vehicles are up 500 from the company's guidance for 9,500 during the quarter. Tesla expected one week of factory downtime, plus further efforts to fill its pipeline of vehicles in transit to Europe and Asia, to result in a sequential decline in sales.

While the company expects to deliver 22,000 vehicles in Q1, it plans to have a much better second half, forecasting a total of 33,000 deliveries in the third and fourth quarters. This would put Tesla's 2015 sales at 55,000, up more than 70% from its 2014 deliveries. Based on Tesla management's third-quarter prediction to sell about 50,000 Model S cars in 2015, the company is likely expecting to sell about 5,000 of its Model X SUV, which is supposed to begin its first deliveries this summer.

Let the 2015 Model S reviews begin
While Tesla has emphasized that demand for its Model S will not be a problem for the company in reaching its 55,000 delivery target for 2015 -- noting that it could hit 55,000 even if it didn't sell a single vehicle in China this year -- some analysts have questioned this rosy outlook. Sure, Tesla said it entered the year with a 10,000-unit backlog of Model S orders. But that's just a fraction of its guidance for 55,000 deliveries this year. Understanding how drastically better Tesla's 2015 Model S models are than its 2014, however, provides some insight into why management may be so bullish.

First, and perhaps most important, the 2015 Model S includes a host of autopilot driver-assist features that not only catch it up with peers, but will soon put Tesla squarely in the lead in the race to autonomous vehicles. Via an over-the-air software update, which the company plans to beam to its Model S fleet in a couple of months, all 2015 Tesla models will be capable of hands- and feet-free driving from highway on-ramp to highway off-ramp.

Beyond the standard autopilot features, other new upgradable options in 2015 models include a dual-motor all-wheel-drive motor configuration, next-generation seats, and a revamped and faster 691-hp flagship Model S, called the P85D.

Tesla's P85D Model S, which can achieve a zero-to-60 time in just 3.1 seconds, has two acceleration modes: sport and insane. Image source: Tesla Motors.

The reviews for the 2015 Model S are just now ramping up. So far, reviewers are gushing. Consider Edmunds.com's bold summary of its A rating for the car.

Saying the Tesla Model S P85D is one of the best electric cars available is in fact doing it a disservice. With its great range, phenomenal interior, crazy amounts of power and a suite of driver-assist systems, the P85D is actually one of the best cars in the world. Period.

This week, Consumer Reports' purchase of Tesla's P85D arrived. Already saying the Model S is the best car it has ever tested, the electric-car maker's new flagship vehicle will have a lot to live up to. The rating agency will get a long-term experience with the vehicle, living with it every day, and seeing how it performs at its track.

Will Tesla's revamped 2015 Model S lineup help drive as much demand as the company expects? When Tesla reports first-quarter results, look for comments from management on how its newer models, including the 70D, are affecting demand.

The article Tesla Motors, Inc. Stock This Week: The 70D and 2015 Model S Reviews originally appeared on Fool.com.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.