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3 Auto Stocks to Buy Instead of Ford, GM

Stocks in this article: F GM CAR ZIP TSLA

It's not simply that Tesla targets the types of markets I reference in this article. It's attractive because, despite popular opinion, it needs to accomplish much "less" for Wall Street to perceive success than entrenched behemoths like Ford and GM.

While I would not necessarily consider TSLA a trusty long-term investment, it's the type of holding that might warrant a meaningful spot in an aggressive portfolio, as long as you're willing to trade it. As Tesla CFO Deepak Ahuja told TheStreet's Chris Ciaccia last month, the "20,000 unit Model S sales target that we have set for ourselves is quite modest".

Ciaccia also wrote an article about the similarities between retail models at Tesla and Apple (AAPL). Keep an eye on that 20,000 number as it relates to demand. Remember words that also often pertain to Apple: Under-promise, over-deliver.

Big carmakers like Ford and GM do not have this luxury. They play by a set of industry-wide, long-established rules. They need to put up massive numbers to even come close to impressing investors. In some respects, particularly in an uncertain economy, they're too big not to fail. Meantime, Tesla superserves a market that identifies with its product, absolutely can afford it and salivates at the thought of a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Playing off of the notion of an urban lifestyle, I also like Zipcar (ZIP) for a trade. By "trade," I mean accumulate for a period, set a relatively conservative stop loss and take profits as you get them. This does not necessarily have to happen over a short timeframe; rather, ZIP, at this stage, does not look like long-term, buy-and-hold investment material.

As rental markets in places like San Francisco continue to heat up, I expect ZIP to respond as a derivative play of sorts. Life in many urban neighborhoods does not require car ownership. That's always been the case, but the ongoing hiring surge by tech companies across the country, particularly in some of the aforementioned hot spots, could contribute to near-term swelling in Zipcar's membership rolls.

Coming off of a fourth-quarter earnings beat in May, I like a buy-write covered call trade on Avis Budget Group (CAR) heading into its Q2 report, likely out in early August.

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