Forget about the stratospheric valuation. Forget about the 30% short interest. Forget, for a moment, that it's a car company.
None of these things matter.
We see this every once in a while in the markets. Something really, truly new comes along. For lack of a better phrase: something revolutionary.
We saw that with Amazon (AMZN) back in 2003. The industry laughed. No way could a retailer support such a valuation and a $50 target. Retail was a lousy, low-margin business.
We saw this with Google (GOOG) back in 2004. It IPO'd at $85 and at the end of the year was trading at $100. The financial industry laughed. No way, cried some on Wall Street, was Google worth $100 a share. Search was destined to be a niche business not a colossus.
With Tesla, we're seeing many of the same themes play out. The financial industry is either laughing, or giving the car maker the cold shoulder. How could this company be worth $25 billion? Cars are a cutthroat, low-margin business, right?
Google and Tesla have this much in common:
They each blew up conventional wisdom with little regard for short-term profits, they gave consumers what they really wanted, and none of the traditional rules of investment or analysis applied.
You've never really been able to plug Amazon, Google or Tesla into a Graham & Dodd spreadsheet or try to discount their cash flows. These companies aren't as much businesses as they are engines for hyper-growth and innovation that can completely change their industries.
Over the years, skeptics tried to have their way, but the road that revolutionary companies travel is littered with the bodies of traders who tried to bet against them.
Remember the wise words of TheStreet's own Doug Kass: "Never short a concept or a valuation. Only short business models that are broken."
This is the brilliance of Tesla. This is what makes it one of the worst shorts in the market. Tesla's business model is a thing of genius. It's clean, elegant and scalable. Most importantly, it's what consumers want. Their business model is the exact opposite of broken.
The reason you know it's genius? The industry is hackles up, and everyone is paying attention. Those who depend on the creaky rules by which the automotive industry has slavishly adhered to in order to survive are sweating. To these businesses, Tesla represents an existential threat.
How much is Tesla worth? Where is the stock going?
Chart Source: TheStreet.com
The honest answer is that nobody knows for sure short term.
Not you. Not me. Not Elon Musk.
The stock is down 20% in two months and is resting at medium-term support. That support may hold or that support may fail. Who knows? Who knows what revenue will be next year? Who knows when the company will post a profit? The idea of a 12-month price target on a stock like this is absurd.
And, ultimately, who cares?
Tesla is changing the auto world. They're giving consumers renewable energy, sleek design and the highest safety rating for a car ever. Whether you look at the data or talk to your neighbor who drives one, customer satisfaction is through the roof.
Tesla is vertically integrating in a way that no one else in this business ever has. Huge new warehouses are popping up all throughout California. Meanwhile, the public-records investigators I know here in my home state of Nevada tell me that Reno is the odds-on favorite for the $5 billion gigafactory.
If you needed evidence that tomorrow is the only thing that matters for Tesla, just look around.
There's only one way in which Tesla makes sense as an investment.
It's buy-and-forget. You pick up some now, but not enough to hurt you or disrupt your sleep if the stock goes poof! Then you forget about it for 10 years. Or 20. It's a decision predicated on faith.
Ordinarily, that's among the worst frameworks for making an investment. Emotion, faith and hope are the horsemen of investors' undoing. But every once in a while we encounter a company where those things make sense.
In the case of Tesla, they're the only factors that make sense.