After several years focused on building the best and safest car on the market, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) could be getting ready to explore alternative revenue streams that traditional car companies could only dream of.
Silicon Valley companies are well known for their success in business model innovation. LinkedIn, for instance, has surprised investors by smashing earnings estimates due to the successful development and execution of alternative revenue streams that were developed only recently.
Tesla could develop three potential revenue sources over the years by leveraging the foundations of its amazing technology platform. The viability of these business model initiatives will, of course, depend on Tesla’s successful execution of its long-term plans of becoming a mass-market car manufacturer and building out its network of charging stations throughout the world.
Analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research is bullish on Tesla’s unveiling of its new 90-second battery swap stations, which the company expects to role out later this year.
In a research note, the analyst explains that the battery swap service creates an asymmetric revenue stream for the company. Swaps will cost $50-$80, which is equivalent to the cost of filling up a 15-gallon gas tank. "We estimate TSLA margins on Battery Swap Stations could north of 60%," Chowdhry states.
The analyst notes that the idea of swapping stations is just one of multiple revenue streams that may emerge from Tesla. Chowdhry believes that the news aligns with the view that Tesla is leading the $100 billion "transport-as-a-service" industry.
Each Tesla vehicle is equipped with a 17-inch screen in the center console that has Internet connectivity and an easy to use web browser. Tesla could easily follow in the footsteps of the Mozilla foundation and sign a deal with Google or Bing that grants the search giant the right to become the default search provider for the in-car web browser. The Mozilla foundation signed a $1 billion dollar deal with Google in 2011 that granted Google a few more years as the default search provider on the popular Firefox browser.
Google’s acquisition of mapping start-up Waze for $1.1 billion dollars tells us that the company has big hopes for the future of maps as a business. The map functionality on Tesla vehicles provides a great experience to owners due to the large screen size and ease of use. Looking for Italian restaurants? Here is a list of the nearest 10 Italian restaurants showing sponsored results first. Again, Tesla could partner with companies like Yelp or Google to make this happen.
A Tesla app store
Tesla could develop its own app store ecosystem for its vehicles and take a percentage of revenue from app vendors. As crazy as this notion might sound, it has already been suggested by some Tesla Model S owners on the company’s forums. Tesla is known for its quick response to the feedback of its customers and openness to incorporate user-suggested features.
Final Foolish words
Business model innovation can either create a new market or allow a company to exploit new opportunities in existing markets. The potential revenue streams discussed above will only move the needle for Tesla if the company can manage to achieve its goals of becoming a mass-market manufacturer with an owner base in the millions. Tesla Motors’ exceptional management team has shown willingness to innovate and change the rules of the game. I believe that Tesla shares are overvalued based on traditional metrics, but that assessment does not take into account the development of new revenue streams. Like Linked-in, Tesla could surprise investors by exploiting new opportunities not yet realized by many.