Tesla Promised A $35,000 Car And Then Its Stock Dove

Tesla Promised A $35,000 Car And Then Its Stock Dove

What struck me most about Battery Day was how un-Tesla the whole event was. There weren’t any too-outlandish-to-believe claims and there wasn’t a new prototype that you might never hear about again. It was, in a word, boring, which is how automaker events are supposed to be. This new grown-up posture apparently also had a hilarious side effect on Wall Street.

To wit: Tesla’s still high-flying stock took a hit.

From Reuters:

Tesla’s market cap dropped $US20 ($28) billion in just two hours after trading closed Tuesday, as Musk and other Tesla executives presented their new battery and manufacturing strategies. Shares closed down 5.6% and dropped another 6.9% after hours.

“Nothing Musk discussed about batteries is a done deal,” said Roth Capital Partners analyst Craig Irwin. “There was nothing tangible.”

The stock was off 10 per cent at the close of the market today compared to yesterday, reducing the valuation of the company to around $US350 ($496) billion, down from close to $US400 ($567) billion the day before. And while it’s always an educated guess why the market ebbs and flows I want to believe this means there were a not inconsiderable amount of investors who were disappointed that Elon Musk didn’t make a bunch of wild claims.

This wasn’t the Elon I’m used to either, but it is one who, after four straight quarters of profitability and what looks like the successful launch of the Model Y — analysts project that Tesla is on track to sell close to 500,000 cars this year, after selling 367,500 last year — is probably feeling pretty confident these days, and maybe a little less inclined to go for broke. And while I’ll believe it when I see it, promising a $US25,000 ($35,435) car in three years’ time, as Elon did last night, at least feels achievable.

So do the technological gains with batteries, for that matter (though the Lithium and table salt thing I’ll admit was a little weird). Which all means this might be a world where Tesla slowly morphs into a company acting more like Ford than a Silicon Valley startup. That might be better for the long-term sustainability of Tesla but slightly less entertaining for those of us who don’t have a dog in this fight.

If that happens I would expect the stock price to fall further, but I’m not the only one who is perplexed about its still-high price. Take it from Elon last night:

“It’s not like Tesla’s profitability is crazy high. Our average profitability for the last four quarters was maybe 1%. It’s not like we’re minting money,” Elon said. “Our valuation makes it seem like we are, but we’re not.”