It's been an outstanding year for Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA). The company's all-electric Model S has catapulted the company into the limelight. Just three quarters of deliveries of Tesla's Model S has been enough to help the company amass an exhaustive list of impressive accolades. As we wrap up 2013, let's review Tesla's recognition.
Automobile of the Year. According to Automobile Magazine, the Model S was the best new car for 2013. The magazine's team of editors and writers said that the Model S "blew them all away."
Motor Trend Car of the Year. It's one of the automotive industry's highest honors. The group of Motor Trend judges and guest judges are, according to a Tesla press release, "considered among the savviest and toughest critics in the industry." Yet 2013 seemed to be an easy call for the judges. As far as Motor Trend can recall, this was the first time that every judge was in unanimous agreement.
A 99 rating from Consumer Reports. The Model S is "brimming with innovation," according to Consumer Reports. The Model S earned one of the highest scores in the history of the venerable publication's ratings, at 99 out of 100 possible points. An excerpt from its glowing review: "[A]s as you dip into the throttle, you experience a silent yet potent surge of power that will make many sports cars weep with envy."
The safest car ever tested. When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put the Model S to the test, the car shattered safety records. Here were just some of the highlights:
- When the testing center attempted to crush the car from the top, the machine failed.
- After failing to roll the car over, the testing center had to introduce special methods to make it happen.
- A much larger crumple zone in the front, thanks to the missing engine, worked in the vehicle's favor.
According to Tesla's press release,
[the NHTSA] awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception. Approximately one percent of all cars tested by the federal government achieve 5 stars across the board. NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, however safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars.
Owners give raving reviews in Consumer Reports survey. Consumer Reports' own rating based on its testing of the Model S was reflected in an owner survey. Owners, too, gave the all-electric luxury sedan a score of 99 out of a possible 100 points. Consumer Reports said it was the highest of any owner survey in years.
Business Person of the Year. As if to put the icing on the cake, Fortune just named Tesla CEO Elon Musk the business person of the year. Given this exhaustive list of accolades and a soaring stock price up 320% year-to-date as of this writing, it would be tough to find someone else more deserving of the award than Musk.
There was one underlying factor of negative criticism toward the vehicle: the inconvenience of long-distance charging. Consumer Reports says the car would have scored higher than 99 if it wasn't for the need to stop and charge the car on long-distance trips.
Of course, Tesla is addressing this issue through its rapidly expanding network of Superchargers, which give vehicles a 50% charge in 20 minutes and an 80% charge in 40 minutes. Also, Tesla is pilot-testing battery swapping, which gets vehicles back on the road with a full charge in less than half the time it takes to fill a gas tank.
New levels of confidence
Tesla's impressive track record has delivered a whole new level of confidence to investors. Trading at a $17.5 billion market capitalization while selling just about 5,000 vehicles per quarter, the Street has big expectations for Musk and Co.
While reviewing the list of accolades above clearly suggests Tesla is here to stay as a major player in the automotive market, the exuberant level of the company's valuation may be tough to live up to. Even for buy-and-hold investors on the aggressive side, Tesla's valuation is becoming tough to justify.
With the standard set so high, and the valuation so bullish, Tesla probably won't be returning the massive returns to investors again in 2014. Zooming out, however, the astounding track record in 2013 gives the company credibility as a potential solid holding for investors with a Foolishly long-term time horizon.