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TheStreet Open House

Here's the Only Company More Misunderstood Than Apple

Stocks in this article: TSLA AAPL AMZN NFLX FB LULU GM F P

Like conservative and former General Motors (GM) executive Bob Lutz has said several times, right wing smear campaigns cloud reality and rational conversation over electric vehicles.

Tesla's not a car company. It's closer to Apple and Lululemon (LULU - Get Report) in spirit and execution than it is Ford (F) or GM. In fact, Apple could learn a lot about its roots and better protect its image by taking a close look at Tesla.

Most people in North America (or the world for that matter) will never see a Model S in person. You have to live in certain pockets of the continent (or, again, the world; about a quarter of Tesla's reservations come from outside of the U.S./Canada/Mexico) to catch a glimpse of one, in the flesh, parked curbside, in a lot or zooming down the avenue.

Wahlman hangs in Palo Alto, Calif.; he sees them all of the time. I'm in Santa Monica; I see about one a day now. I expect that number to increase as has been the case with the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt over the last year. While Tesla will never reach Toyota (TM) Prius-like ubiquity, it will come close on an adjusted basis.

In other words, a relatively small number of people can obtain a $65,000 to $100,000 luxury vehicle, therefore, you'll naturally see fewer of them, on the whole, than you do a $20,000 to $30,000 hybrid or $30,000 to $50,000 EV.

And that's cool. That's all Tesla needs. Just like LULU doesn't need the world to drop $150 on yoga pants, Tesla is not, probably never will and has no reason to shoot for mass adoption. Like Apple (or, at least like Apple should be), Tesla is not a market share story. It's a high-end, exclusivity alongside aspirational consumer wow-factor story.

People gawk in Tesla Stores the same way they do in Apple Stores. Except most of us cannot have a Model S, whereas plenty of folks can put together the right number of nickels for an iPod.

That's the story. And Wahlman's correct. Everything else is noise.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.
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