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Electric Vehicle Checkpoint: Cramer Comments on Tesla Autopilot Probe

See the latest news for the top stocks in the electric vehicle space including Ford Motor, NIO, Lordstown Motors, Plug Power and more.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report shares traded lower after the clean-energy carmaker said U.S. authorities had opened a formal probe into its autopilot system

Tesla shares fell $31.00, or 4.32%, to close Monday at $686.17.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it has identified 31 Tesla accidents over the past three-and-a-half years, including four in 2021, that were connected to the use of Tesla's Autopilot system. The agency will look at systems embedded in around 765,000 Tesla Model X, Model Y, Model S and Model 3 sedans made between 2014 and 2021.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that "data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD." The NHTSA said at the time it was "actively engaged with local law enforcement and Tesla to learn more about the details of the crash and will take appropriate steps when we have more information."

"It seems as if you have one accident, the whole project just gets blown up. What I don't like about that is when I saw the number of people over a five-year period, the crashes seem like a small number. So small that if I were the company I'd say: 'Listen, we'd like to tell everybody in multiple forms, including right on the dashboard, that the product doesn't have the ability to do X.' To make it so that they pull it out would be a shame," said Jim Cramer. 

Get more trading strategies and investing insights on EV company stocks from Cramer and the other contributors on Real Money.

"I keep thinking about the drunk people who, frankly, are going to drive no matter what and I want to be protected from them. Therefore, I want the entire process to go by knowing that people won't be safe if they do this...you have to understand that if they take it [autopilot] away without being totally involved, all they need to say is: 'If you use it, please be aware that it is not foolproof. They [Tesla] need to come up with a compromise that explains if people use it, they have to have hands-on. But all I know is that it didn't seem like a lot of crashes to me," Cramer added. 

U.S.-listed shares of NIO  (NIO) - Get NIO Inc. Sponsored ADR Class A Report fell after a Chinese executive reportedly died in an accident while driving one of the Chinese electric-vehicle maker's model ES8 SUVs.

Lin Wenqin, the founder of the brand-management firm Meiyihao, died this past Thursday in a vehicle collision after activating the autopilot navigation system in his NIO SUV, according to news reports by several Chinese media outlets.

The NIO ES8 is equipped with several driver-assistance functions, including features enabled by Intel INTC division Mobileye, that enable some forms of autonomous driving, Barron's reported.

NIO’s driver-assistance functions are called NIO Pilot and employ cameras as the so-called eyes of the car.

Here is a list of the electric vehicle stocks to watch:

Tesla

Tesla's Musk now expects to produce vehicles at its gigafactory outside Berlin in October or a bit later, a media report says. Reuters reported that the electric vehicle producer has pushed back the factory's opening date, citing German bureaucracy. The plant also faces opposition due to environmental issues, the news service reported. The plant was initially expected to open in July. Work on the plant started in early 2020.

Tesla hopes to have final approval from German environmental agency Brandenburg soon, with Musk saying the plant could see approval for manufacturing cars "maybe in October if we are fortunate," Reuters reported. But that October opening also could be in jeopardy. 

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Tesla as a Hold with a rating score of C.

Ford Motor

Ford  (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report is asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to rescind General Motors'  (GM) - Get General Motors Company (GM) Report trademarks for its Cruise and Super Cruise products. The automaker said that GM's Cruise and Super Cruise trademarks should never have been registered in the first place, according to a report from Reuters. Ford said any number of companies use the word "cruise" in connection with driver-assisted technology.

Ford cited Mack Trucks' Predictive Cruise, Hyundai's Smart Cruise Control and auto supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG's Autocruise as examples of the word "cruise" in trademarks.

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TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Ford as a Hold with a rating score of B-.

General Motors

General Motors  (GM) - Get General Motors Company (GM) Report posted weaker-than-expected second-quarter earnings, but lifted its full-year profit guidance, as warranty costs linked to the Chevy Bolt battery recall ate into the carmaker's bottom line.

General Motors said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in December came in at $1.97 per share, up from a loss of 50 cents per share over the same period last year but well shy of the Street consensus of $2.23 per share. GM added that it booked $1.3 billion in warranty recall costs for the quarter, with $800 million linked to the replacement of Chevy Bolt batteries.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates GM as a Buy with a rating score of B.

Lordstown Motors

Lordstown Motors  (RIDE) - Get LORDSTOWN MOTORS CORP. Report drew cautious commentary from analysts after the company said it was ready to start "limited production" of its electric pickup truck in September. Lordstown, which also announced a second-quarter loss, said it will begin limited production of its Endurance pickup truck in late September.

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, who does not rate the company's stock, said that "while management reaffirmed their commitment to in-hub EV architecture and the Endurance on the call, we believe it is increasingly likely that the product may never actually achieve commercial production at scale." Lordstown is the subject of investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department.

TheStreet Quant Ratings doesn't have a rating for Lordstown Motors.

NIO

NIO’s deliveries jumped more than 125% to 7,931 vehicles from a year earlier but dipped 1.9% from 8,083 in June.

The company said that by the end of 2025 it planned to add 3,700 battery-swap stations, which would give it 4,000. A swap station is where EV drivers go to quickly exchange their batteries for new ones, rather than waiting for a charge. A typical electric car takes about eight hours to charge from empty to full, according to U.K. charging company Pod Point. The company is making charging stations a priority, Co-Founder and President Qin Lihong told reporters this past week.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates NIO as a Sell with a rating score of E+.

XPeng

Shares of Chinese electric vehicle maker XPeng  (XPEV) - Get Xpeng Report rose sharply this past week on strong delivery results. XPeng said deliveries soared 228% to 8,040 in July from last year and were up 22% from 6,565 in June. The July total represented its second consecutive record month. The electric vehicle carmaker delivered 6,054 P7 smart sedans and 1,986 G3 smart compact SUVs.

XPeng shares have slid 18% over the last six months amid valuation concerns.

TheStreet Quant Ratings has no rating for Xpeng.

Plug Power

Shares of Plug Power  (PLUG) - Get Plug Power Inc. Report were higher after the hydrogen-fuel-cell maker reported second-quarter revenue ahead of estimates and raised its full-year gross-bookings estimates. The company reported a second-quarter net loss of 18 cents a share on revenue of $124.6 million.

Last week, analysts at RBC Capital initiated coverage with an outperform rating and a price target of $42 a share. “Plug Power’s valuation is rich, but its long runway for growth justifies the premium,” analyst Joseph Spak wrote in a research note to clients. The company “offers exposure to the emerging hydrogen economy through its ‘comprehensive turnkey solution," he said.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Plug Power as a Sell with a rating score of D.