We don’t generally cover much current news here, but as historians, when history is being made, it is compelling and occasionally worth writing about. As of this morning, Tesla (TSLA) has a market capitalization of some $53 billion, exceeding both GM ($50B) and Ford ($45B), as well as a number of other global car makers. And this is for a company that sold roughly 1.6% of the number of cars in the US in March than either GM or Ford. What gives? Tulips or Apples?
The stock market is all about the future, and for many, Tesla clearly offers a bright one, even if it’s down the road a ways. But the EV makes exceeded the lower end of its guidance in first quarter sales (it only posts sales quarterly), having delivered a bit over 25,000 of its Model S and X globally. That’s up 69% over the first quarter a year ago. And Tesla’s guidance is that it will ramp up to make 500k cars in 2018, on the strength of some 400k reservations for its new lower-priced Model 3, which is scheduled to go into production later this year.
Elon Musk has claimed that Tesla’s future revenue, driven by Model 3 sales, will hit some $20billion in revenue with 25% profit margins. The stock market is essentially saying that it believes he can execute that goal.
Meanwhile, GM and Ford sales are stagnant; GM eked out a small gain in March; Ford took a good-sized hit. The market overall is clearly getting weaker, and investors see nothing rosy in the future for either of them, as well as other automakers.
There are other reasons to help explain this huge divergence in investor sentiments. Tesla is now quite a bit more than just a carmaker; it’s an alternative energy company. Having acquired Solar City, it now offers a complete sun-to-wheels system, including its new Solar Roof, as well as the new Power Wall 2 home battery storage system.
And Tesla is struggling to meet demand for its Powerpack 2 battery storage units as utilities around the world are scrambling to utilize them in utility-sized buffering systems, which are ever-more critical in order to smooth out the increasing output of the growing installed solar systems, both on residences and large commercial installations. Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada is now cranking out the new 2170 batteries and packs to supply both the Model 3 and the two storage systems.
Of course, Tesla stock doesn’t exactly trade in the usual patterns like old legacy companies, because it’s not that widely held, and also because it has been one of the most heavily shorted stocks, some $9 billion in February. But TSLA’s strong rise in the past month or so is forcing many of the short sellers to unwind their positions, at considerable losses. That also is undoubtedly fueling the stock rise.
It will be fascinating to see how this unfolds; so far, Musk has consistently stayed ahead of the naysayers, reaching or exceeding growth and revenue targets. In any case, there’s absolutely no doubt that Tesla is the first major new US carmaker success story since Walter Chrysler created Chrysler’s similarly huge success in just a few years in the mid-late 1920s with which to challenge GM and Ford.
Update: a Google study just came out that ranks Tesla as the “Most cool” automaker among teens and millennials. And among millenials, Tesla was one of the 5 coolest brands overall, right up there with Google, Youtube, Netflix and Amazon.
More: NYT Business