The logo of car manufacturer Tesla is seen in Bern
The logo of car manufacturer Tesla is seen at a branch office in Bern, Switzerland October 28, 2020. Reuters

Tesla Inc's shares sank nearly 10% on Thursday and dragged down other automakers after Chief Executive Elon Musk signaled the electric-vehicle maker will keep cutting prices to drum up demand even after taking a big hit to margins.

The stock was trading at $163, with at least 15 analysts lowering their price targets on Tesla.

Tesla's market value was on track to drop by $50 billion to about $517 billion, if losses hold, falling below that of Meta Platforms Inc for the first time since 2021.

"Facing a volatile macroeconomic backdrop and weakening demand, Tesla continues to prioritize units over near-term profits," said analysts at Canaccord Genuity.

Tesla's gross margins fell to a more than two-year low in the first quarter and missed market estimates, after the company kicked off a price war in January to defend its dominance in the U.S. and make inroads in China, its second-largest market.

Musk suggested more such moves ahead, saying the company that has cut slashed prices six times so far this year will put sales growth ahead of profit in a weak economy.

That spooked investors, who dumped automakers from Europe to the United States on fears that margins will be sacrificed for maintaining share in a market that is slowing this year due to economic uncertainty.

"Long-term we believe this (Tesla's price cuts) is the right strategy and leverages their cost leadership position. However, this does not come without pain as we now believe margins will get worse before they get better," RBC analyst Tom Narayan said.

U.S. automakers ranging from Ford Motor Co to startups such as Lucid Group Inc fell between 3.3% and 4.4%.

France-based Renault SA, whose finance chief said the company will not drastically cut prices on its EVs amid Tesla's downward "spiral", was down 7.6%, while Germany's Volkswagen fell 3.5%.

GRAPHIC: Tesla's stock rebounds in 2023