Tesla's Success Story in 3 Charts

CEO Elon Musk has led Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) to surprising success in a very short time. In three charts, here's a brief recap of America's most closely followed growth story.

Revenue growth

TSLA Revenue TTM Chart

TSLA Revenue TTM data by YCharts

Accelerating from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds, Tesla's Roadster was the company's first hit. With the Roadster, Tesla showed the world that all-electric vehicles can perform on par with sports cars. Even more, the Roadster boasted meaningful driving range at 245 miles per charge -- more than any other electric car.

Roadster. Source: Tesla Motors.

As seen in the revenue chart above, Tesla Motors essentially exploded onto the scene. But it wasn't because of the Roadster -- it was because of the Model S. This premium, all-electric sedan officially made Tesla a formidable competitor in the luxury car market.

Model S. Source: Tesla Motors.

Starting at $70,000, the Model S boasted over 200 miles of driving range. It served up unprecedented performance -- not just among electric cars, but among every car ever sold in the U.S. -- according to Consumer Reports, which gave the car 99 points out of a possible 100. And when it comes to safety, the Model S is second to none.

Consumers loved the value proposition. After the first deliveries in the U.S. in 2012, the Model S has already captured 8.4% of the large luxury car market for the first half of 2013.

Since the launch of the Model S, sales have been limited by supply constraints -- not demand.

Gross profit margin expansion

Source: Data retrieved from quarterly filings and earnings calls from the first and second quarters of 2013. The gross profit margin reported in the chart refers exclusively to the company's automotive segment, using non-GAAP figures excluding zero-emission vehicle credits.

As the company continues to sell increasingly more cars, economies of scale and production efficiencies are significantly boosting its automotive gross profit margin.

As seen in the chart above (on the right), Tesla believes there's significant room to improve its gross margin. Though the company did not provide specific guidance for its automotive third-quarter gross profit margin (excluding zero-emission vehicle credits), it does have a fourth-quarter target for an impressive 25%. In fact, Musk believes that the company's gross profit margin could "get close to exceeding Porsche's over time," he told Bloomberg Businessweek. Before Porsche was acquired by Volkswagen, it was reporting a gross profit margin greater than 50% on its luxury sports cars.

Soaring stock price

TSLA Chart

TSLA data by YCharts

The company's growth story has rewarded shareholders handsomely while leaving bears in the dust.

Whether or not the stock is a buy at today's inflated price is a matter of debate, but there is no denying the company's impressive execution evident in its soaring revenue and fast-improving profitability.

Tesla isn't the only growth stock stunning investors. This incredible tech stock is growing twice as fast as Google and Facebook, and more than three times as fast as and Apple. Watch our jaw-dropping investor alert video today to find out why The Motley Fool's chief technology officer is putting $117,238 of his own money on the table, and why he's so confident this will be a huge winner in 2013 and beyond. Just click here to watch!

Read/Post Comments (29) | Recommend This Article (36)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 5:20 PM, prginww wrote:

    What happens when energy credits and government paid intensives to customers go away? They are comparing them to Porsche, but Porsche never received energy credits and their customers didn't get government incentives to buy their cars.

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 5:55 PM, prginww wrote:
  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 6:00 PM, prginww wrote:

    Customers have already paid $208 000 000,- for Model X's ?

    QAtesla | 22 AOÛT 2013

    Model X, General Production, number 5196, August 22

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 6:12 PM, prginww wrote:

    More useful charts would show:

    (1) The number of drivers actually in the financial position to buy a car that "starts" at $70,000. Of these, how many are really itching to dump their gas-guzzling SUVs, sports cars, and other mobile icons to buy a Muskmobile?

    (2) How much does it cost in unsubsidized electricity to charge such cars to go 200 - 250 miles? The charging time is how long? Compare to the cost of $4/gallon gas to go the same distance.

    (3) What do typical repairs cost, who is qualifed to do them, where are such facilities located?

    (4) How long does the battery last? The first time you charge it you can go 250 miles. What about the 100th time? The 1000th time? What about the effects of hot and/or cold weather on driving range?

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 6:32 PM, prginww wrote:

    What "energy credits and government paid intensives" [I think you meant "incentives"] are you talking about? To the best of my knowledge, your local electric company doesn't give you any freebies for charging an electric car.

    I'll never understand why some people get angry about electric cars. Very odd.

    dgmennie: Tesla is in the luxury car market. They don't need to sell to a mass market to be profitable and therefore a (possibly) worthwhile investment.

    Electric cars like Tesla's actually need less maintenance than internal combustion engine cars because they have fewer moving parts. There aren't as many pieces to wear out. No fuel tank or fuel and water delivery system, no exhaust system, no internal combustion engine and associated parts (points, plugs, air filters, etc.). And regenerative braking reduces brake wear. So I expect they'd last quite a long time if they're built well (which appears to be the case).

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 6:34 PM, prginww wrote:

    @dqmennie watch this at the 15 minute mark.

    Falcon wing doors ...


    Gas costs around $9,- per gallon here in Europe






    The $200m number above is wrong, mixed up Signature and Production..

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 6:38 PM, prginww wrote:

    With 48% of the US electrical generation capacity supplied by Coal the electric vehicle is worse environmentally than conventional Fossil fuel powered vehicles. TSLA is not a car I would own based on that simple fact alone.

    It is simply worse for the environment until the US power grid becomes less than 25% coal powered which is not happening any time soon...

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 6:40 PM, prginww wrote:

    @garyDMN - Tesla's gross margin targets are excluding zero emission credits -- same with a speculation for a Porsche gross profit margin. By then ZEVs will likely have virtually no impact on the bottom line anyways. More on ZEVs and understanding Tesla's earnings here:


    Musk plans to launch an affordable car around $35,000 before credits with 200 miles of range. Repairs, Tesla has an awesome program for repairs where they can actually come to you and give you a loaner vehicle (Roadster or Model S). They are rapidly expanding service centers -- but there really isn't much maintenance needed for a Model S. And to your other questions, I would check out their website, take a test drive, or call a Tesla product specialist and they can get you answers swiftly. The value proposition is pretty good, that's why Tesla is selling every vehicle it can make.

    Thanks for the comments

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 6:49 PM, prginww wrote:

    electric Vehicle US Federal Tax Credit incentive

    $7500 on the purchase of an electric vehicle so that $70,000 TESLA is actually $62,500.00

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 7:18 PM, prginww wrote:

    " And to your other questions, I would check out their website, take a test drive, or call a Tesla product specialist and they can get you answers swiftly."

    Great answer Daniel. It's funny when people talk against a product they don't know much about.


  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 8:13 PM, prginww wrote:

    It's understandable why so many people see Teslas as a waste and a flop, but... But any revolutionary change in technology or new industry is going to take a long time to be an efficient success. Ford started his car company three times before he finally figured it out and then transformed American society as a result. Airplanes were around for decades before the Average Joe could afford to sit in one and be thrown through the air at unheard of speeds in relative comfort. So I applaud Musk's pioneering efforts to make the far simpler tech of electric cars work well and then affordable. That will be awhile but you are guaranteed in 25 years there will be more electric cars than gas and our grandchildren will regard gas cars as we regard black and white TV.

  • Report this Comment On August 22, 2013, at 9:24 PM, prginww wrote:

    I like Tesla the car. I like Tesla the company. But the stock is ridiculously over-priced and until it comes back into a range remotely resembling sanity, I'm not interested.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 1:41 AM, prginww wrote:

    @dgmennie -

    Model S already has 8.4% of the US luxury car market. Tesla is outselling models like the Audi A8 (base MSRP: $72,200), BMW 7 Series ($73,600) and Mercedes S-Class ($92,350).

    At 14¢ a kWh, it costs $11.90 to fully charge the 85kWh Model S. At 265 miles that comes to 4.5¢ per mile. You can charge for free with solar, public chargers or the Superchargers.

    Compared to a typical ICE, the Model S has very little maintenance costs. No belts, coolant, oil changes, spark plugs, emissions sensors, mufflers,...

    Model S's batteries are unconditionally guaranteed for 8 years.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 2:11 AM, prginww wrote:

    "With 48% of the US electrical generation capacity supplied by Coal the electric vehicle is worse environmentally than conventional Fossil fuel powered vehicles. TSLA is not a car I would own based on that simple fact alone.

    It is simply worse for the environment until the US power grid becomes less than 25% coal powered which is not happening any time soon..."


    So can we assume you never use electric power in your home? :-) Most electric cars are being bought, built or used on the west coast. Washington and Oregon generate 90% of their power via hydro and wind. On average, the entire west cost gets 60% of their power via hydroelectric. Include Natural Gas, and we're above the 75% figure you speak of.

    Oregon and Washington have no operation coal plants (Oregon's energy map is goofed up, pay no attention to it.) California gets 1.7% of their power via coal.

    So there you have it. The entire west coast gets less than 2% of our electricity via coal.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 2:59 AM, prginww wrote:



  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 6:23 AM, prginww wrote:

    @Aljarbar - You are wrong. That 48% of electricity-from-coal figure is out of date. It's now down to 40% and that's only over the last few years. On top of that, burning gasoline wastes most of the energy as heat (only about 10% becomes motive power). Burning coal to generate the electrons in a large-scale plant is FAR more efficient and, even though it pollutes, it pollutes far LESS than the small-scale, inefficient internal combustion engine under a car's hood.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 11:58 AM, prginww wrote:

    I am about to buy into Tesla's story but I need to know one more piece of information: How come golf courses have all switched back to gas powered carts?

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 12:07 PM, prginww wrote:

    <Oregon and Washington have no operation coal plants (Oregon's energy map is goofed up, pay no attention to it.) California gets 1.7% of their power via coal.>

    This is factually incorrect regardless of geography OR "electric supply" Oregon and Washington consumers get electric supply from coal plants in WY, MT. The PGE coal plant located in Boardman OR is still operational.

    Nonetheless, the other statements are reasonably accurate, even if such easily checkable "facts" are muffed.

    The generic idea either that coal plants are "bad" OR that the 48% of generation represented by Coal ( I have my doubts about that fact considering the source) is not going away anytime soon should also be regarded skeptically. Most of the coal plants in the US are approaching if not over their useful design life, AND owners are under pressure (misguided tho it be) to add hugely expensive additional controls or replace them with more expensive wind and solar, for the rewards showered on them by taxpayers and regulators. This will be VERY hard for coal plant owners to resist, case in point PGE which has decided to close the Boardman Coal Plant because of the many carrots offered.

    Furthermore, Combined cycle gas turbine plants (CCGT) fired on Natural Gas are now much more efficient, much lower life cycle cost and gas prices have become substantially more attractive. This will almost certainly drive a good deal of our coal capacity to exitinction in favor of Natural Gas CCGT. While this will take some time, you can build a large CCGT station in a couple of years (I know this by personal experience).

    We could be down below 25% coal in 3 or 4 years given the continuation of improper carrots and sticks. This may become very risky for electric consumers especially if electric consumption skyrockets as "teslaguy" and his imitators substitutes electric for gas.

    And, while the whole discussion is interesting to me, I doubt very much that "teslaguy" cares a whit about how much it costs him to operate his car.....

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 6:15 PM, prginww wrote:

    aljahbar wrote:

    "With 48% of the US electrical generation capacity supplied by Coal..."

    That is FALSE.

    Coal supplied 37% of total electricity generated in 2012.

    Coal 37%

    Natural Gas 30%

    Nuclear 19%

    Hydropower 7%

    Other Renewable 5%

    Biomass 1.42%

    Geothermal 0.41%

    Solar 0.11%

    Wind 3.46%

    Petroleum 1%

    Other Gases < 1%

    From 2007 to 2012, use of coal has dropped 14%, while renewables have been rising.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2013, at 6:25 AM, prginww wrote:


    It is hard to compare what the actual efficiency of a ICE powered vehicle. The best thermal efficiency I know of is 34% and even automatic powertrains are very efficient when they are running in their highest gear; I've seen 90% used before. That would give you 30% efficiency under ideal conditions. I used to drive from Fort Dodge, IA to Rapid City, SD about 10 times a year for work. Driving 4 hrs, stopping to get gas and driving 4 more hours (mostly on interstate) would give me a much higher efficiency then driving though New York traffic. This trip is also not currently possible with an electric vehicle. People will adopt to electric vehicles as their individual circumstances dictate.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2013, at 9:21 AM, prginww wrote:

    TSLA is the Taser of the 'teens... A fantasy stock, a "super-bubble" built on rumors and speculation. These stocks are bullet proof to actual fact based valuation or news impact based on truth. For example on Friday there was an item in science briefs that the li-ion batteries used in Teslas have serious safety (read Boeing type fires!) issues and TSLA is quietly redesigning their much hyped battery swapping program. In the real world it would be a great time to short the stock, hold on for a few days of bumpy action as this news percolates into main stream financial media. TSLA is a $55-60 dollar stock by this time next year. Just a hunch. Disclosure: not long, but may take short position in the next week or so.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2013, at 1:40 PM, prginww wrote:

    As tl customer financial incentives, they go both ways. Here in VA and a couple other states, a hybrid or electric car is levied a new tax to make up for the lost gasoline tax revenue which is used to repair the roads.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2013, at 5:05 PM, prginww wrote:

    Great development this car! No emissions, low maintenance. Ofcourse there are further developments needed.

    - safety of the battery

    - the main source of electricity to charge the battery like solar- and windenergy.

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2013, at 4:39 PM, prginww wrote:

    I absolutely love this company. Tesla Motors is a forward thinking company with a great vision for the future. They're providing a real and viable solution for an over stressed planet by giving us an exceptional alternative to vehicles powered by fossil fuel.

    This is a company that come thick or thin I'm going to stand behind, not only because I am firmly aligned with what they are doing, but also because I believe they have only just begun. I believe they'll be providing the world with sustainable, and enormously FUN transportation for generations to come.

    The guys at Tesla have true vision.. they saw a world dependent on expensive, polluting fossil fuels and they came up with an outstanding solution and then created it, and the result is that they've built one of the finest cars ever made. It's also one of the best looking in my opinion.. I loved their Roadster, but when I look at the Model S it reminds me of Bently, Porsche Panamera, and with a little Aston Martin thrown in to boot.

    To top it all off they're also building FREE solar powered energy stations in every major city in the U.S and putting them in between cities as well? This is a company with a serious vision for a better world! That was a huge and a brilliant step toward sustainability, and toward the longevity of both their own company and of electric vehicles in general.

    This country was built on great entrepreneurs like the guys at Tesla and I give BIG kudos to all of them for building a fantastic car and for having a vision for a sustainable future for us and our children. I'm behind you all they way guys! Cheers all,

    Dr. John Michael Christian

  • Report this Comment On August 30, 2013, at 9:39 PM, prginww wrote:

    Crony capitalist required me to loan them money to get started (against my will), depend on government tax credits to induce buyers (again at taxpayer expense), rely on other car companies go give them money (again against their will). Great company! How would they do on a truly free market?

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 9:51 AM, prginww wrote:

    Interesting comments, however no one has asked the question about what power generators are thinking. All assume that power companies will be willing to continue allowing consumers unlimited access for recharging at the same price to run your home. Very doubtful. They will soon see the potential for charging higher unit values to deliver what is needed to charge ZEV's. The existing power grid is being stretched to the limit now. Add in a few million ZEV's and the whole equation will change.

    One additional tidbit about so called "green" power. Until they find a way to store electricity in large quantities and for long periods of time, power plants will always be needed to supply electricity when the wind ain't blowin and the sun ain't shinin!

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 4:37 AM, prginww wrote:

    Someoen is putting in 117k now ? Can be very wrong here, but the popularity in this stkl is extreme/. TMF itseld owns it ? PLUs, though they have apparent success with 250 mi range., my bet is it doesn't hold up over time. Electric sounds wondeful, but ... I don't think we are at teh point where it can truly compete operationally,.

    Yes like a new suit style, some will buy to LOOK enviro-superior.

    I am gong to study deepr, I think I see a short.

    Hs teh ideal charastics.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 1:28 PM, prginww wrote:
  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 7:03 AM, prginww wrote:


    Congratulations on an excellent post!

    Those (and others) are the questions that Tesla investors should be asking!

    Not whether they`ll sell 1,000 or 1,600 cars in Norvegia this year...

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