by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Given Tesla’s challenges in North Carolina this year, the “Locker Room” has paid extra attention to the car maker’s fortunes. Bloomberg Businessweek is the latest publication to give Tesla and owner Elon Musk the cover treatment.
In Tesla’s 10 years of existence, the company has suffered through embarrassing delays and leadership overhauls, verged on bankruptcy at least once, and been a favorite target of short sellers. In May it posted its first profitable quarter, with earnings of $11.2 million; sales for the first quarter rose 83 percent, to $562 million. Musk raised the 2013 sales estimate by a thousand vehicles to 21,000, an eightfold increase over 2012. A few weeks later, Tesla paid off a $465 million government loan early and then raised $1 billion from investors. The stock price has soared in the past six months, from $32 a share to $129.90 on July 15, before falling $18.21 in one day after Goldman Sachs (GS) published a skeptical report about the carmaker’s margins. Tesla has a market cap of about $13 billion, or about the size of Mazda Motor, which, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) estimate, will sell about 1.3 million vehicles globally in 2013.
Some of the stock’s rise may have come from short sellers covering their bets, but you don’t get revenue increases like that without a decent product. The Model S does zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds, has plenty of room (including a “frunk,” a second trunk under the hood), and gets the energy usage equivalent of 95 miles per gallon. Last November it became the first electric to win the Motor Trend Car of the Year award; in May, Consumer Reports gave the Model S its highest car rating ever—99 out of 100. “It’s what Marty McFly might have brought back in place of his DeLorean in Back to the Future,” the magazine said.