General Motors Co. (GM) had nice gains in midday Tuesday trading, but closed higher by just 0.48% at $38.01.
Helping matters is a note from Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, TheStreet's Jim Cramer pointed out on CNBC's "Stop Trading" segment.
It's no secret that automakers like GM and Ford Motor Co. (F) have traded at extremely low valuations. There are several factors for that reason, which include fear of peak auto and the companies' generally thin profit margins.
These companies are "both valued on their installed user base/subscriber models," Jonas said of Facebook and Apple. This can "offer valuable clues regarding the opportunity" for GM, he reasoned.
In "Auto 2.0" as he calls it, Jonas said automakers can transition away from the vehicle-ownership model and toward a subscription-based model.
"What can I say?" Cramer asked. While the theory seems a bit out in left field, Jonas said that a transition to a subscription model "could expand revenue opportunities." This model may also be less cyclical and less capital intensive, which not only helps profitability but could allow for a higher valuation.
It's at least not completely out of the picture. Specifically with General Motors, the automaker has laid out plans to create fleets of autonomous taxis for dense urban environments. Even factoring in maintenance costs, this model could generate significantly higher returns for the company than the one-time sale of a vehicle.
Further, GM said on Tuesday it will roll out an Airbnb-like pilot program for car owners to rent out their vehicles to other drivers. If it gains traction, GM may build on that momentum and turn it into a full-fledged business.
So while Jonas' concept may seem far-fetched at first, it's not completely unrealistic given GM's current initiatives.
Jonas has an equal-weight rating and $44 price target on GM stock, implying about 14% upside from current levels.