Commentary

Tesla Investors Party Like It’s 1999

Apr 11, 2017

Good morning,

Tesla Motors (tsla) nudged past GM in market value yesterday, reaching $51 billion, even though the company sold just 76,230 cars last year - compared to GM’s 10 million. To do the math for you, that means Tesla has less than one percent of GM's market share. And by the way, Tesla lost three quarters of a billion dollars last year.

But never mind. Investors seem to believe Elon Musk, whose ambitions include colonizing Mars, has already escaped the gravity of financial markets. “In the minds of its customers, employees, and shareholders, Tesla isn’t just another company,” according to research firm Piper, whose report putting a price target of $368 on the stock, well above yesterday’s $312 close.

Take a moment to give Musk due credit. What he has done is beyond anyone’s ability to imagine a decade ago. He has created a new car company from scratch, built an electric sports car that people love, and taken the lead in autonomous driving.

Read: This Barclays Analyst Thinks Tesla Bulls Are Living In ‘The Matrix’

Still, does that justify a market value of $51 billion? Not unless you believe the leaders of Ford, GM, and Toyota are asleep at the switch, and will simply hand over the market to their upstart rival.

Worth looking at what’s happening today at Whole Foods, which a decade ago was disrupting the grocery store business from the high end. Lo and behold! It turned out that Kroger and A&P could sell fresh food, too, and at lower prices. Activist Jana Partners has now upped its stake in Whole Foods, and is pushing for major changes.

Read: The Chinese Maker of WeChat Is Now One of Tesla’s Biggest Shareholders

Musk and GM CEO Mary Barra are both scheduled to be at the White House today, to discuss tax reform and infrastructure with President Trump. One question on the table: should the government end tax incentives for Musk's pricy electric cars?

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