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Things are not looking good for Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA ) .
The company that jumpstarted the electric-car revolution reported grim earnings last night. Its revenue rose only 4% in fiscal 2010, while its net loss nearly tripled to $154.3 million.
Operationally, the company behind the uber-sexy Roadster has taken a pit stop while it works up a 2.0 version called the "Model S." Meanwhile, the competition is running laps around Tesla. General Motors' (NYSE: GM ) Volt and Nissan's Leaf both hit the market late last year. Ford (NYSE: F ) is expected to have an Electric Focus out before this year's done. Meanwhile, new rivals from Honda (NYSE: HMC ) to Th!nk to Mitsubishi to Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B ) holding BYD all have new electric car models poised to compete directly with Tesla in the coming years.
So why is the stock up 8% this afternoon? Like the electric car industry in general, Tesla is all about the future.
Expect great things
Consider: At a price tag well into the six figures, Tesla has managed to sell only 1,500 Roadsters to date, representing roughly $150 million in sales. But already -- without a car on the road to advertise it -- Tesla has accumulated more than 3,700 "reservations" to preorder its new Model S, which amounts to more than $185 million, sight unseen.
Far from being out of the fight before it's begun, Tesla is only getting started. It's begun amassing allies; Toyota (NYSE: TM ) and Panasonic (NYSE: PC ) both have taken equity stakes. It's bought itself a factory. It's diversifying its revenue streams by helping Toyota build an electric RAV4. And thanks to the lower sticker price on the Model S, the company's got a very hot seller on its hands already.
Granted, none of this addresses the question of the stock price. Even if we assume that Tesla can build all the cars it's got reservations for, in Year One, and then repeat that feat in ensuing years, the company's $2.2 billion market cap gives this stock a price-to-sales ratio of more than 12. (By way of comparison, both Ford and GM sell for 0.4 times sales.)
Then again, if you're shopping for a Tesla car, or Tesla's stock, perhaps price is no object.
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