While shortsighted investors speculate about Tesla's (NASDAQ: TSLA ) second-quarter deliveries and worry unnecessarily about a battery fire that resulted from a high speed stolen Model S accident, investors who really understand the fundamental drivers behind Tesla stock are concerned with a bigger story: Tesla's six-year potential.
Why should Tesla investors keep their eye on a time horizon so far out?
Tesla is a growth stock. In fact, a better description would be a growth stock on steroids. Tesla trades at about half of General Motors' market capitalization even though it has only guided to deliver 35,000 vehicles this year. Compare that to General Motors 9.7 million vehicles delivered in 2013. The disconnection between Tesla's valuation and its 2014 guidance for vehicle deliveries shows just how bullish the market is for Tesla's growth plans.
In a nutshell, here is what Tesla is planning in the coming years -- all in one chart.
That may be the first reaction this chart gets from investors who haven't really looked into Tesla's plans. But it's important to understand the long list of catalysts that are likely to drive sales in the coming years. In order of how soon these catalysts could make a significant impact for Tesla, here are the most crucial catalysts to Tesla's future delivery ramp.
1. International expansion. As Tesla continues to expand to new markets, its addressable market expands. Consider China, for instance. Tesla believes that annual Model S deliveries in the country could eventually exceed those in the U.S.
2. A growing retail footprint. Even in the U.S., Tesla's retail footprint is still small. The company says it plans to grow the number of global service centers and stores by 75% in 2014. Spending no money on advertising, retail locations are key to sparking word-of-mouth marketing, sales, and consumer education.
3. The Model X. Tesla's all-electric SUV is going to start shipping to customers in the first half of 2015. Tesla says that it believes Model X demand could exceed Model S demand. And given Tesla's vision into Model X demand by accepting customer orders and deposits, management likely have a decent idea of how vehicle sales could fair.
4. Tesla's affordable car. The success of Tesla's planned affordable car is absolutely key to the company's success as a mass-market player. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that it will have an all-electric range that exceeds 200 miles, be about 20% smaller than the Model S, and cost somewhere around $35,000. Priced significantly lower than the Model S, Tesla is planning for the car to sell to the tune of hundreds of thousands per year.
5. The Gigafactory. Of course mass-market production won't be possible without completely reinventing the lithium-ion battery supply chain. This is exactly what Tesla plans to do with its Gigafactory. Tesla says that the factory will be capable of producing lithium-ion batteries at a scale large enough to support 500,000 vehicles per year by 2020, a level of production that would exceed global lithium-ion supply today.
These are the factors investors should be eyeing. Given their gargantuan importance to Tesla's story, investors should also expect lots of stock price volatility, going forward. As Musk has explainedon multiple occasions, since there are so many forward-looking assumptions priced into Tesla's stock, any event, report, or news, that impacts confidence levels toward any of these planned catalysts for Tesla's business could have a leveraged effect on the stock price.
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