Tesla: Missing a Chance on Another DeLorean

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Anytime I come across something that seems too good to be true, I get nervous. Call me a skeptic.

The sweat starts pouring down pretty quickly, especially when there's money on the line. There's no coming to terms after I've screwed up and lost money by going against my better judgment.

But what happens when your better judgment fails?

This pretty much sums up my relationship with Tesla ( TSLA), a stock I've always liked. But the company just could never fit into the "code" of my portfolio. I've always believed that Tesla was the DeLorean of the future. While the electric vehicle is a great concept to go along with stylish engineering, as with the DeLorean, I've always believed Tesla was too far ahead of its time to be taken seriously today.

As far as the stock is concerned, I've never been the type to invest in "feel good" stories, especially in an industry dominated by the "Big three" in Ford Motor ( F), General Motors ( GM) and Chrysler. Others have tried to take them on only to have "run out gas." Ask Preston Tucker and Malcolm Bricklin.

While you're at it, you might also want to do some research on John DeLorean. In fact, I don't know of a person who has ever watched the "Back to the Future" trilogy starring Michael J. Fox without wanting to take the DeLorean for a spin at 88 miles per hour. Everybody wanted one. Yet, the DeLorean still failed.

So for me to believe in Tesla, I needed the underlying business to be solid enough to matter. Not only would it have to make sense, but more importantly, I needed to trust that the business could make. And Tesla, despite its ingenuity and cleverness, never made any, not for a decade. This is my first public admission that I've been an admirer of this company. My better judgment kept saying no.

Despite my hesitation, there was still a part of me that knew that Tesla might one day overcome some obstacles. With a bit of luck the company could outperform the market. With the stock having reached a new 52-week high on Tuesday of $137.48, shares of Tesla have posted gains of more than 300% year to date. When expanding the horizon further by the trailing twelve months, shares have soared well over 420%.

Who would have thought that "feel-good stories" would be so profitable? This was my mistake. I'm not apologizing for this, though. My investment values have saved me from many traps. But it is clear that Tesla's CEO Elon Musk, has found a niche for his company, which has now made a name for itself.

"Cool factor" is not a term I ever imagined would be assigned to electric vehicles. What Tesla has done has been remarkable. I'm not saying the company has suddenly become a market-share threat to the Big Three. I don't believe Tesla can ever produce enough vehicles to cause Ford and GM to worry.

That said, it's foolish to insist on denying what the company has been able to accomplish in such a short period of time. Take for instance, Tesla's recent performance (May quarter), during which the company posted its first-ever quarterly profit in its 10-year history. No longer can we say the company has never made a profit. Accordingly, I'm willing to adjust the model by which I last applied my investment code.

As a value investor, I can tell you that it wasn't just about the profit, I was impressed more with the fact that the $11.2 million earned was a "real number" -- measure on a GAAP scale -- not the "adjusted" variety. What's more, with revenue soaring 83% year over year, coupled with expanding gross margin, which grew 900 basis points from the February quarter, Tesla's business looked solid. It was no longer just a feel-good story.

From the looks of it the company's mission, which is to change the way consumers think about cars and this mundane task called driving, is being executed to perfection. And growth investors have responded. It's still tough for me to accept that I could have blown it this badly. But I've come around since then. I'm not going to bet wrong again.

With margin expected to expand to 25% by the end of the year, which is 8% higher than the 17% mark achieved in the May quarter, make no mistake about it -- Tesla is here to stay. And I would do anything to take a Model S for a spin at 88 mph -- go back in time -- and buy the stock. John DeLorean would be proud.

At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

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

Richard Saintvilus is a co-founder of StockSaints.com where he serves as CEO and editor-in-chief. After 20 years in the IT industry, including 5 years as a high school computer teacher, Saintvilus decided his second act would be as a stock analyst ¿ bringing logic from an investor's point of view. His goal is to remove the complicated aspect of investing and present it to readers in a way that makes sense.

His background in engineering has provided him with strong analytical skills. That, along with 15 years of trading and investing, has given him the tools needed to assess equities and appraise value. Richard is a Warren Buffett disciple who bases investment decisions on the quality of a company's management, growth aspects, return on equity, and price-to-earnings ratio.

His work has been featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, Forbes, Motley Fool and numerous other outlets.

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