Tesla Shares Up 500% Over Past 5 Years, Worth More Than Ford

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Tesla Inc.’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) future is still bright, based on a stock market measure. Despite a recent sell-off that pushed shares near a 52-week low, Tesla stock still is up over 500% in the past five years, and its market cap is still larger than that of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), a much bigger company.

Why, after a devastating string of news, are its shares not closer to zero? The company continues to be viewed as the future of the auto industry. Its technology has stayed at the cutting edge. Demand for its products is unprecedented in the car industry, at least in the past few decades.

The list of Tesla’s recent problems is long and brutal. Its bonds have been downgraded further into the junk category by Moody’s. That means, in theory, it will be harder to sell fixed income instruments or the interest on them will be back-breakingly high. Production of its inexpensive Model 3, which many consider the future of Tesla, has been slow. The Model 3 is priced near $35,000, which makes it much more affordable than other Tesla models. Over a hundred thousand customers, or perhaps more, are waiting for the ones they have ordered.

Also, a Tesla Model X was involved in a fatal accident. The company said the car’s autopilot feature was engaged, and that the driver did not have his hands on the wheel. That, in and of itself, does not tell much. The National Transportation Board said it is unhappy Tesla revealed details of the accident before a complete investigation.

Nevertheless, the Model S and Model X are considered wonders of the car industry. Their almost flawless construction, speed and low maintenance have been commented upon over and over. Research firms that rate cars often put Tesla at the top of their brand lists. The Model 3, which was delayed, has no competition. The closest is the Chevy Bolt, which sells only a few thousand cars a year.

All of this adds up to a stock price that has risen over 500% over the past five years. Over the same period, battered Ford’s is off 15% and the S&P 500 is up 124%. Tesla’s market cap is above Ford’s, which is the best measure of what Wall Street believes about the future of the two companies.

While the industry tries to catch Tesla in the electric car and self-driving car business, investors may be impatient. However, they are not impatient enough to sharply lower Tesla’s valuation.