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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The plural of anecdote is statistics. There are lies, damned lies and statistics. So take what I am about to say for whatever it is worth. Maybe nothing. I own some Tesla(TSLA - Get Report) stock, after all, just so I can go to the annual shareholder meeting, get a free coffee and be my usual pest.
You could argue that what I am about to present is the equivalent of saying, "I've never seen a non-
Apple(AAPL - Get Report) tablet out in the wild, so therefore..." -- and you would be right. But people are still justifying this kind of reasoning as one factor to consider when predicting the
success of this or that gadget, operating system, etc.
So because this is the case in other cases, you will have to indulge me for committing this sin in this case now. The opportunity is simply too rich.
Tesla started delivering its all-electric Model S luxury sedan to consumers in the middle of 2012. By all accounts it appears to have delivered at least approximately 3,000 of them by year's end, and for 2013 the company has guided to 20,000 cars.
On the one hand, that's a whole lot of cars. On the other hand, it's like spitting into the ocean. There are over 300 million people in this country, and there are over 15 million cars sold per year in the U.S. Even at 15,000 cars per year, Tesla would constitute only 0.1% of the U.S. new car market. Obviously, an even smaller percentage of the cumulative stock of cars on the roads.
Here's the thing, though: This is still very early days for Tesla. It's like judging the prospects of the iPhone based on how many people bought the iPhone on that first day in June 2007. It told us nothing about the iPhone's success two, four or six years hence. It's hard to believe now, but for the iPhone's first year in the market, it was not considered to have had a meaningful quantitative impact in the market.
In the early days, a new product can sometimes take root in a very uneven pattern, geographically speaking. The Tesla Model S is an excellent example. There are multiple reasons for this:
1. Tesla's Year-End 'Mad Dash'
Tesla had hoped to build 5,000 cars by year's end. Over the summer and fall of 2012, it became clear that it simply took an extra month to pull all the parts and manufacturing processes. Therefore, to maximize the probability of delivering at least
half as many as cars -- 2,500 -- by year-end, Tesla focused on first delivering cars to people living as close to the factory as possible. Those would be the people who pick up at the factory, and where delivery otherwise can take place inside the San Francisco Bay area.