It's hard to believe there is any upside left in Tesla Motors Inc (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.
International expansion 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.