Tesla Is Where Hype Goes To Die

  • Date: 06/12/17
  • Wolf Richter, Business Insider

Tesla – which lost $619 million in Q3 – delivered only 3,590 vehicles in November in the US, down 18% from a year ago.

Friday was the monthly moment of truth for automakers in the US. They reported the number of new vehicles that their dealers delivered to their customers and that the automakers delivered directly to large fleet customers. These are unit sales, not dollar sales, and they’re religiously followed by the industry.

Total sales in November rose 0.9% from a year ago to 1,393,010 new vehicles, according to Autodata, which tracks these sales as they’re reported by the automakers. Sales of cars dropped 8.2%. Sales of trucks – which include SUVs, crossovers, pickups, and vans – rose 6.6%. Strong replacement demand from the hurricane-affected areas in Texas papered over weaknesses elsewhere. As always, there were winners and losers.

And one of the losers was Tesla.

First things first: There is nothing wrong with a tiny automaker trying to design, make, and sell cool but expensive cars that a few thousand Americans might buy every  month, and trying to do so on a battleground dominated by giants. Porsche has been doing that for years. Porsche AG is owned by Volkswagen AG, which is itself majority-owned by Porsche Automobile Holding SE. Tesla is out there by itself.

And Tesla has put electric vehicles on the map. That was a huge feat. EVs have been around since the 1800s, but given the challenges that batteries posed, they simply didn’t catch on until Tesla made EVs cool. Yet Tesla has to buy the battery cells from battery makers, such as Panasonic.

Tesla isn’t quite out there by itself, though. The Wall Street hype machine backs it up, dousing it with billions of dollars on a regular basis to burn through as fast as it can. This masterful hype has created a giant market capitalization of about $52 billion, more than most automakers, including Ford ($50 billion). It’s not far behind GM ($61 billion). […]

Every automaker is preparing a lineup of EVs. Unlike Tesla, they have their supply chains down pat, and they know how to get their assembly lines to function, and they know how to mass-produce vehicles. There are already about two dozen EV models on the market in the US. Like GM, these automakers are just using their EVs to lay the groundwork for the broader shift.

Tesla has used two years of hype surrounding the Model 3 as a way to boost its share price. This allows it to raise many more billions by selling more ludicrously overpriced shares to gullible investors, and by selling more debt to institutional investors who believe that Tesla’s ability to sell still more ludicrously overpriced shares to gullible retail investors will in effect guarantee the junk-rated debt they just bought. Few companies have ever been able to perform that scheme at this masterful level.

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