You see that? The minimal interior, the whopper of a monitor slapped in the middle, the tech-forward aura of it all? That’s the future, presented by Tesla, which is now the most valuable car company in the U.S., according to the stock market, despite not having produced a single Model 3 sedan, the car viewed as the “make or break” model for the automaker.
Weird, huh. This all comes with the obvious caveat that everything could change in a flash, but it’s a notable milestone for Tesla founder Elon Musk, who gleefully chided skeptics of the company yesterday on Twitter.
“Stormy weather in Shortville,” Musk, a reported alien, said. (In layman’s terms, anyone who “shorts” Tesla is betting the company will end up a financial disaster.)
So how’d we get here? The New York Times ran a lengthy piece today, detailing just that.
While G.M. and Ford may have strong profits and healthy balance sheets, Tesla offers something Wall Street loves much more: the potential for dramatic growth.
“Investors want something that is going to go up in orders of magnitude in six months to six years, and Tesla is that story,” said Karl Brauer, a senior editor at Kelley Blue Book. “Nobody thinks Ford or G.M. is going to do that.”
Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, has shattered the conventional wisdom that automakers should be viewed as a stable, reliable investment. Instead, he promotes his California-based company as a dynamic vehicle for growth, despite the risks and challenges ahead of it.
In his vision, Tesla is going to change the world, and is primed to cash in on the two transformative trends in the industry: the shift to electric vehicles as part of a broader societal move to cleaner energy, and the advent of automated driving.
A decade removed from economic catastrophe, traditional automakers are struggling to convince Wall Street that its record profits are sustainable, despite keeping up with Tesla and Musk on the tech-front, as well.
More from the Times:
Of course, based on the number of cars actually being made, they are in a different league from Tesla. G.M. sold 256,000 vehicles in the United States last month, and Ford 234,000. Tesla’s sales for the same period: 4,000.
But it was the growth and the outlook, not the raw numbers, that moved the markets. Investors tend to look at Tesla as a technology start-up rather than an automaker.
“It’s almost like Tesla is positioned in people’s minds as an energy storage company that happens to put most of its batteries on wheels,” said Andrew Stewart, chief investment officer at Exchange Capital Management, an investment firm in Ann Arbor, Mich.
For now, that’s the key driving Tesla higher and higher: it’s not like the rest of the pack. Now, facing sky-high goals from a guy not known to meet them on time, we’ll see if it can deliver.