Tesla Inc.'s (TSLA) shares may be down 16% from their late-June peak, but the EV pioneer is still worth more than the 114-year-old Ford Motor Co. (F) , and sports multiples that demand Tesla make good on its promises of explosive production and delivery growth in the coming years.
As a rule, it's a good idea to be skeptical of any claim that Tesla is worth one exact amount or another, whether it's $100 or $800 per share. We're talking about a company that (officially at least) aims to ramp its annual vehicle production from about 84,000 in 2016 to one million in 2020, all while significantly growing its energy storage and solar installation businesses.
Merely coming up with a range for what Tesla's sales and profits will look like in a few years is no mean feat. It requires making difficult guesses about how close the company -- no stranger to missing production and delivery targets -- will get to achieving its very ambitious manufacturing goals -- not to mention about what consumer demand for upcoming Tesla products will be like, or what kind of margins Tesla will reap on sales.
On thing is clear, though: Following a 52% 2017 run-up that has left the company valued at nearly $53 billion, Tesla needs to at least come close to reaching Elon Musk's ambitious targets to keep investors happy. The selloff that Tesla saw on July 5th after just slightly missing Q2 delivery estimates drives this point home.
Though Musk has talked about reaching a one million-car production run rate in 2020 -- Tesla's delivery goals for the year are likely a little lower -- analysts are more conservative in their modeling. On average, they see Tesla delivering 683,000 vehicles in 2020 -- still up nearly sixfold from expected 2017 deliveries of 116,000.
Those 2020 deliveries, together with battery, solar and services revenue, are expected to yield adjusted EPS of $11.90, via net income of $2.16 billion.
Thus, even if one assumes Tesla precisely hits those estimates, shares are now trading at 27 times what the company will earn three years from now. For comparison, Alphabet (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) , respectively, trade at 14 and 16 times their consensus 2020 adjusted EPS estimates. For Tesla to currently trade at around 20 times its 2020 EPS consensus rather than 27, it might need to deliver about 800,000 vehicles.