From engines catching fire to gruesome self-driving vehicle deaths, to the CEO publicly joking about a made-up crack cocaine habit, does anything really shock us about Tesla Motors (TSLA - Get Report) anymore? Actually, buried in all that salacious news lately is a nugget you should be paying attention to.
It's been a roller-coaster ride as firebrand CEO Elon Musk leads the company through triumphs and tragedies that have sent investors alternatingly celebrating and panicking. And this week a small revelation hints at the next thing to come. Should investors be nervous?
Musk has been hinting at a "master plan" for some time now. The company has been the object of speculation since announcing its intention to merge with SolarCity (SCTY) .
At first, the proposed deal makes a lot of sense. With the acquisition of SolarCity, Tesla would become a major player in the alternative energy sphere. As well as selling electric cars, Tesla could sell a way to generate the energy for that car.
However, the deal itself is making investors nervous.
The problem is that Musk is also the chairman and largest shareholder of SolarCity (he owns more than 20% in each company). And the conflict of interest keeps growing: A majority of the directors on the boards of Tesla and SolarCity either have financial connections to both companies or are blood relatives of Musk. Plus, looking at the fundamentals, the deal seems just as shady. Neither company has yet proven profitable.
But now a development hints at what Musk's master plan might actually be -- and it will likely combine both companies.
Tesla has changed its web address from www.teslamotors.com to simply www.tesla.com. This is leading to much analyst speculation that the master plan involves combining both companies into one with one name: Tesla. This business could encompass both the car brand and solar power products, as well as Tesla's home battery line.
Make no mistake: Tesla's purchase of SolarCity might be a good move for the company. Musk himself has complained about the car company not being able to sell power-generation supplies. "Not being able to sell [customers] solar directly at Tesla stores is quite inefficient," he said.
This would certainly fix that problem, but is Tesla worth your investing dollars?
We maintain that Tesla is a too-risky play for investors. There is a company with excellent potential buried somewhere here, but whether Tesla, led by Musk, can deliver on that potential is another story. Plus, Tesla's manic ups and downs makes the stock unsuitable for all but the most strong-stomached investor.
If you're looking for a safer and steadier way to play the electric car industry, Toyota (TM - Get Report) is a much better bet. With a stock about as dependable as its products, Toyota is currently working on its own self-autonomous vehicle technology, which stands to be a moneymaking winner among Japan's disproportionately high senior population.
If you're more intrigued by alternative energy vehicles than self-driving ones, consider looking to China, where the demand for cleaner cars is huge. Kandi Technologies (KNDI - Get Report) , an electric car manufacturer that is allied with other Chinese majors such as Alibaba, is expected to see growth not only from the Chinese market but from Australia and even Europe as it expands its reach.
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