Tesla’s autonomy program will ‘drive the stock higher:’ Analyst

Tesla’s (TSLA) record profits for the fourth quarter are sending shares toward record highs. The next catalyst to take the stock up could be the electric vehicle giant’s autonomous program, Oppenheimer analyst Colin Rusch told Yahoo Finance Live.

“Valuation is pretty substantial for the company, and it’s really predicated in our view, around their ability to deliver on the autonomous program,” he said.

“We think the EV program where they’ve done a tremendous job and are continuing to make improvements, is going well, and is a precursor to potential success with the autonomy program,” he said, “That’s what’s going to be driving the stock higher from here.”

Rusch has an Outperform rating on the stock. He noted Tesla is able to take in loads of data about how drivers navigate the roads, giving them information for their insurance program.

The company’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) program is starting to gain more attention as around 150,000 cars are now part of the Beta enrollment. Roughly 2,000 drivers have been granted permission to test FSD program over the past year. 

‘Not enough scrutiny on the auto-pilot potential for regulation’

The autonomous technology is also gaining greater scrutiny from regulators. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently probing Tesla over high-profile accidents while autopilot was engaged.

“I think there’s not enough scrutiny on the auto-pilot potential for regulation,” Wells Fargo analyst Colin Langan told Yahoo Finance Live.

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“The just hired somebody who is pro more regulation on autonomous functionality,” said Langan, referring to the agency’s recent pick for safety adviser. 

“I think there’s a higher risk there that maybe they might have to limit some of the functionality of autopilot which is a big selling feature,” he added.

Langan has an Equal-weight rating on the stock. 

“On the other side there is the launch of Austin and Berlin and the hype that comes with that,” said Langan, about the the electric vehicle maker’s new giga factories. 

He also notes that Tesla could benefit greatly from any more future government credits for electric vehicles.

On Thursday Tesla shares were up more than 3% and headed toward a record close. 

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