Maybe it is the competition from several electric cars launched or announced in the past few months, or maybe it is a valuation that is a remarkably large multiple of earnings and revenue. Whatever the cause, the shares of Tesla Motors Corp. (NASDAQ: TSLA) have dropped 17% in the past month. The super car company no longer boasts a super stock price.
Tesla’s engine fire problem is mostly behind it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has dropped its probe into these incidents. This has allowed the car’s impressive safety ratings to return as one of its primary sales appeals. That, married with praise about the performance and quality of the Tesla S, and the reasons to buy the vehicle are as least as substantial as for any other car on American roads.
However, Tesla is being chased by several other products launched by global manufacturers. This should be expected for any successful car. Some of the competition still have small gas-powered engines, like the Cadillac ELR from General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM). BMW’s i3 and i8 have to be considered rivals because of the electric car credentials and the German car company’s brand power.
Another drawback to Tesla’s near-term future has to cause its management anxiety. It cannot build enough cars to meet demand. Tesla plans to build its own battery factory. But it may not be up and running for five years. In the meantime, Tesla’s sales could remain supply constrained.
The matter of the valuation of Tesla’s shares dogged it among some of its investors when the stock surged from a 52-week low of $44.54 to $265.00. Shares currently trade at $193.91. However, Tesla’s market cap sits at $23.7 billion, against GM’s at $53 billion. Despite recall problems, America’s largest auto manufacturer will sell more than 9 million cars this year worldwide.
Tesla’s revenue could double this year, and perhaps double again the next. But it is still a niche car company, just one recall or one successful competitor away from a really large stock sell-off. Tesla’s shares are off 17% in the past month, but that drop may be little more than modest.