By Noel Randewich
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Shares of Tesla <TSLA.O> fell from record highs on Tuesday after an analyst warned that the electric car maker may take longer than expected to become profitable.
Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois launched coverage of Tesla with an "underperform" rating, helping send shares of the company headed by entrepreneur billionaire Elon Musk down 2.17 percent to $376.74 after closing at a record high the day before.
- Celebrity deaths 2018: All the stars we lost too soon 46 Pictures
- Photos: Starbucks Reserve Roastery NYC reconnects you with your coffee 48 Pictures
"Achievements to-date and vision are impressive, but we don't think Tesla's vertically integrated business model can be scaled up as profitably and quickly as consensus thinks and valuation multiples imply," Houchois warned in a research note.
Houchois' $280 price target was well below the median analyst price target of $337.50, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Musk is counting on the recently launched Model 3, Tesla's least pricey car, to make the Palo Alto, California company profitable and establish it as the leading electric carmaker ahead of BMW <BMWG.DE>, General Motors <GM.N> and other long-established players.
Wall Street's confidence in Musk has sent Tesla's stock up 83 percent over the past year to record highs.
Skeptics believe Tesla's aggressive production targets are unrealistic, that Musk is burning through cash too quickly and that the company's electric cars will be overtaken by larger automakers.
Eight analysts recommend buying Tesla's stock, while another eight recommend selling, and eight others have neutral ratings, according to Thomson Reuters data. That makes Tesla one of the 10 most poorly-rated stocks in the Nasdaq 100 index.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; editing by Diane Craft)