As a writer, it’s tempting to say that Tesla Motors (TSLA) is firing on all cylinders. Yet as an auto enthusiast, it would be woefully inaccurate.
Tesla’s cars don’t have cylinders.
Still, whichever metaphor one chooses, there’s no denying the amazing roll Tesla’s been on for the past year. The shares have vaulted an incredible 292% during the past 52 weeks, making TSLA owners some of the happiest investors around.
Click to Enlarge This week, shareholders have reason to be even happier, as Tesla is hitting new highs due in large part to the stock’s inclusion into the Nasdaq-100 Index — traded via the PowerShares QQQ Trust (QQQ), or “the Q’s.”
I find it ironic that Tesla, with high-profile billionaire CEO Elon Musk at the helm, is filling the spot left by Oracle (ORCL) — a company also created and run by another high-profile billionaire CEO, Larry Ellison.
Granted, Oracle shares are moving to the NYSE, so it’s not like they were being bumped because of low market cap. Still, I suspect the competitive juices running through the veins of both Musk and Ellison have to be at least somewhat excited about their respective exchange moves.
For Tesla, the past year will likely be hard to repeat. It has been all puppies and kittens for the luxury carmaker.
The great news began when Tesla’s Model S sedan was crowned the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year. Then in May, the company proved the critics — and a tremendous number of short sellers — dead wrong as it reported its first-ever profit and its first quarterly period of positive operating cash flow.
During Q1, the company saw revenue of $562 million, which trounced expectations for a top line of just $500 million. Cash flow from operations was $64 million, and gross margin was a robust 17%, which means Tesla has streamlined cost involved in per-unit production of its vehicles. In fact, Tesla’s earnings release said that it reduced the hours needed to build its Model S by almost 40% from December through March.
To make things even better for Tesla, the company made a shares-and-notes offering designed in part to help pay off its Department of Energy loan well before the due date. And to top it all off, TSLA also recently announced it was building a national supercharger network that will recharge its vehicle’s batteries.
As the eloquent and provocative Musk told CNBC, the solar-powered supercharger stations will have battery packs for grid storage of power so they’ll work “even if there’s a zombie apocalypse.”
So with all of the great news swirling around Tesla the company, and TSLA the stock, what does the future look like for shareholders?
I think there are three possible scenarios:
#1: Puppies and Kittens in Perpetuity
Tesla could continue catching every break, and the stock could keep powering another 300% higher over the next 52 weeks. While I think this scenario — rosy as it might be — is certainly possible, it’s also highly unlikely. The really big and really fast money in TSLA shares has likely been made, and while I still like Tesla for a long-term growth play, I am not expecting another 300% move higher.
But I would love to be proven wrong here.
#2: Red Ink
Another completely opposite scenario is that Tesla has made its run, and that the company will fall out of favor with investors as soon as the fast-momentum capital abandons the stock in search of a new Wall Street darling.
However, I not only think this scenario is highly unlikely … I think it’s less probable than the unchecked road to prosperity.
Could an earnings miss, or a production glitch, or a mass recall of some sort cause the stock to come under heavy selling pressure? And what about those carbon credits, which critics have argued contribute to about $40,000 for each Model S sold? If they are pulled or reduced, how will that materially affect TSLA’s bottom line?
Of course, this kind of circumstance always is possible. Is it likely? I think not. One reason why I wouldn’t bet against Tesla is the genius stewardship of Musk, who seems to be operating on a different level than most when it comes to a vision for his companies.
#3: Steady Wins the Race
I think this final scenario is the likeliest: Tesla will continue to deliver solid earnings results — and solid share price appreciation for investors — over the next six to 12 months and beyond.
As more people own Teslas, more people will come to realize the incredible customer experience that I had when I test-drove the Model S. I liken it to piloting a luxury jet, with the smooth power delivery from the electric engine and control from the finely tuned suspension that made me feel like I was floating through the air.
More positive factors likely to keep the stock driving higher is the constant improvement of the product, the immense technological innovation Tesla is committed to, and the growing acceptance of electric vehicles as a real alternative to gasoline-powered engines.
Tesla shares have more upside to come, so if you haven’t yet had a chance to board this ride, I say it’s not too late.
Just don’t expect to see lightning strike TSLA another 300% higher by this time next year.
As of this writing, Jim Woods did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.