Tesla has leapfrogged General Motors to become America’s most valuable carmaker, riding a wave of optimism about the electric vehicle company despite its continuing losses. Shortly after the start of trading on April 10th, Tesla’s stock market cap overtook that of GM – it was worth about $51 billion, or $1.7 billion more than its established rival. While it’s not clear that this will last, it’s no mean feat for a company that has made just three car models in its brief 13-year history. The big question is whether or not Tesla can back up that value with raw sales numbers.
To a large extent, Tesla’s valuation is based more on its potential than what it has done so far. All of its existing cars are luxury models that have sold in modest numbers – it’s happy to have sold 25,000 cars last quarter where GM sold nearly 690,000 vehicles (including commercial sales) in the same period. Even when you consider Tesla’s premium prices, it’s relatively a small player in the automotive industry. It’s not exactly profitable, either. While Elon Musk’s outfit occasionally turns a profit, it tends to bleed cash due to its combination of high investments and relatively low output. Read more