Tesla: Never Bought it and Never Will

Stocks to sell
  • Tesla (TSLA) stock is overvalued and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Elon Musk is bored.
  • The company has yet to begin planning on a true mass market car.
  • Tesla loses share wherever the middle class gets into the electric revolution.
Source: Ivan Marc / Shutterstock.com

I am not a fan of Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) or TSLA stock.

I question the basic bull thesis. Having taken the luxury end of the market, the theory goes that Tesla can take the mass market by simply scaling up.

But in markets where there is mass market demand for electric vehicles (EVs), like China and Europe, Tesla’s market share is dropping. The mass market doesn’t need huge batteries, fancy fittings, or a $50,000 price tag. Why pay 18 times revenue to own Cadillac when Chevrolet is what the people want?

TSLA Tesla, Inc. $758.69

Dances With Bulls

If I am right, Tesla is overvalued. Tesla is getting fat on the cream of the market when any dairyman knows the big sales are in low fat milk.

Tesla is indeed getting fat. Tesla bears turned into bulls after first quarter numbers came out. Tesla earned $3.3 billion, $2.86/share under GAAP, on first quarter revenue of $18.7 billion. Auto revenues were 87% ahead of a year earlier. But they were just 5% ahead of the previous quarter.

Bulls think Tesla is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), that it has the market sewn up. They say there will be haves and have-nots in the new tech market and Tesla will be one of the haves. They see continuing supply chain worries and assume Tesla will surmount them while rivals won’t.

Tesla has taught its industry many lessons, but the lessons are being learned. Buy a Toyota (NYSE:TM) today and you’ll be faced with a host of services aimed at tying you to the brand. For car dealers, service and support are where the money is. Even General Motors (NYSE:GM) has learned that you build your full line off one platform to keep costs down and focus on battery supply.

Despite Tesla’s pretensions, in other words, it’s a car company. No car company is worth 18 times its revenue.

The Great Replacement

A walk around my middle-class neighborhood tells the story. The “Great Replacement” today isn’t people quitting their jobs. It’s replacing America’s gas-guzzling fleet with EVs.

Tesla made the big jump look cool. We have two Teslas on my block. But for most people it’s still a question of small steps. That’s why I recently became the fifth homeowner on my street to buy a Toyota hybrid. It cuts my gas use in half, but I don’t have to worry about finding a plug in the middle of West Virginia. It also cost half what a Tesla costs.

Cars with plugs, like the Tesla, still represent just 5% of the U.S. car market. Hybrids are where the growth is in today’s mass market, which is dominated by Japanese, Korean and Chinese names. 

Tesla’s market share in China is falling. In Europe, Volkswagen (OTCMKTS:VWAGY) and Stellantis (NYSE:STLA) now have bigger shares of the plug-in market.

The Bottom Line on TSLA Stock

Bulls look at CEO Elon Musk’s effort to buy Twitter (NASDAQ:TWTR) and worry that might distract him. They even bought Tesla when it seemed he might back off the Twitter purchase.

The Twitter saga tells me Musk is bored. Tesla is being run by car guys. The great strategic cut-and-thrust is mostly over. He wants to do something else. So don’t buy or sell Tesla stock based on Musk.

Look at the fundamentals. In the near term, they’re great, but you’re overpaying. In the longer run, they’re troubled, which is why even tech whisperer Cathie Woods has been loading up on GM stock.

My bottom line: Don’t go near Tesla until it can make a Chevy.

On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held a long position in AAPL. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial and technology journalist since 1978. He is the author of Technology’s Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore’s Law, available at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at danablankenhorn@gmail.com, tweet him at @danablankenhorn, or subscribe to his Substack.

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