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Tesla Triumphs but Questions Remain

Stocks in this article: TSLA GM

The NYT writer blames his failure to fill up the car's battery with a full charge on advice he was given by Tesla. The real question is this: If he indeed received this bad advice, why did he follow it? Driving an electric car to a place near the range limit requires knowledge of mathematics, basic physics, logic and common sense.

This includes:

1. charge the car as much and as often as possible;

2. drive smoothly and not too much above the speed limit;

3. don't sit and idle with the heat on, thinking it will help.

If Jimmy Doolittle had piloted his plane in the same manner the NYT treated the Tesla Model S this Winter, he would never have made it to Tokyo, let alone China.

In the end, Tesla managed to turn a piece of crummy publicity into a PR triumph. All it took was for other people -- CNN as well as regular owner-volunteers -- to re-create the NYT journey, and achieve a successful result.

There are many reasons Tesla is succeeding as a company -- although that does not constitute a prediction for the stock. One of them is product positioning. There simply isn't another car in the market that's anything like it.

The $80K (and up) Tesla Model S has a EPA-certified average range of 265 miles. The only other all-electric car that beats 100 miles is the $50K Toyota RAV4 EV, which uses the Tesla drivetrain with a smaller battery. All other cars are below 100 miles, with the best-seller being Nissan LEAF at 75 miles.

Yes, I know: If you want the electric car experience for only the first 38 miles, and being able to go 370 miles in total, the GM's (GM) Chevrolet Volt (and soon Cadillac ELR) is for you. And while that's a car that I personally prefer, considering that it costs half or less than half of the Tesla, it's not the same. It doesn't have the same acceleration, suspension, interior space, etc.

Tesla has loads of patents, a new kind of sales experience, and of course a car that is totally unique in its market positioning. This should make for a successful company.

Considering the large short interest, I'm modestly optimistic on the stock as well, but we shall see. In either case, not bad for a company that went from zero to an amazing 100% market share in record time.

At the time of submitting this article, the author was long TSLA.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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