Tesla Market Cap Hits Half of GM's

If Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) management is fortunate, the company will sell 55,000 cars this year. General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) will sell 10 million. Yet, Tesla’s market cap is about half of GM’s. Something is wrong with the picture.

Tesla’s current market value is $33 billion, while GM’s is $58 billion.

Advocates of Tesla’s market value point to its position as the car manufacturer of the future. However, even if it achieves its ambitious goals, it will not be able to mass produce its cars for several years. As company management has pointed out:

Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation. To achieve that goal, we must produce electric vehicles in sufficient volume to force change in the automobile industry. With a planned production rate of 500,000 cars per year in the latter half of this decade, Tesla alone will require today’s entire worldwide production of lithium ion batteries. The Tesla Gigafactory was born of necessity and will supply enough batteries to support our projected vehicle demand.

By the time the Tesla factory is up and running, every major manufacturer in the world will have competing products, along with large marketing budgets and much larger dealer networks.

The case in favor of Tesla is the slow death of the internal combustion engine as a means to power cars and light trucks. The largest manufactures have satisfied, at least in part, the concerns of drivers who want fewer dangerous emissions by offering hybrid cars. So far, that solution has been sufficient.

Tesla shareholders have elected to bet on an uncertain future with the belief that technology can trump company size. But its technology can be replicated. Even if that does not happen in the next year or two, ramped up production later in the decade will not be enough for the electric car company.

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