What happened

Shares of electric vehicle (EV) leader Tesla (TSLA -4.02%) raced away at the start Thursday morning, climbing as high as 2.1% through 9:43 a.m. ET before giving back some of the gains.

You can thank positive comments about Tesla from famed growth investor Cathie Wood for that.

Lights streak down a red Tesla electric car racing down the highway

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

As Barron's reported yesterday, Wood predicted that five years from now, Tesla could be selling more than one in five of all cars sold everywhere.  

Wood had a couple of provisos to that statement, saying, "If Tesla is the first to be successful in autonomous in the United States, we're beginning to believe that not only will Tesla take that biggest share of the electric vehicle market, we believe that it could take 20% to 25% share of the total auto market in five years." 

Rivals including Ford and General Motors and even Alphabet's Google are all in the race to be first to driverless cars. But considering the progress Tesla has made with its Full Self Driving software, and its pole position in electric cars in general (60% market share in the U.S.; 20% market share worldwide), Wood thinks Tesla has a shot at maintaining and even expanding its lead to as high as 25% of all cars sold everywhere.  

Now what

Assuming Wood is right about this underlying assumption, she works her math like so: Worldwide, about 80 million new vehicles are produced and sold annually. A 25% share of those sales would work out to 20 million Teslas sold by 2025 -- and as Wood points out, Tesla sold only about 500,000 cars last year.

Result: Tesla could conceivably grow its sales to 40 times current volumes over the next four years: about 4,000% growth in four years.

This is a prediction and not a promise. As rival automakers put new EVs on the road to compete with Tesla, the company's market share is probably more likely to shrink than expand. But Wood notes that early offerings from Volkswagen, Ford, and others haven't really dented Tesla's market share much. And she says that if the company can add full self-driving capability to its cars before anyone else succeeds, its advantages over the competition could become unbeatable.