Kandi Technologies (NASDAQ:KNDI) isn't exactly a household name, even for investors who are up to speed on publicly traded plays on alternative energy and electric cars. A big reason for Kandi's obscurity is that it toils away in China. Another reason for its low profile is that until recently it was seen primarily as a sleepy company cranking out go-karts, ATVs, and other off-road vehicles.
Things began to change for Kandi two summers ago when it entered into a deal to provide 20,000 vehicles for an electric-vehicle leasing program in Hangzhou. Last year, it partnered with the more visible Geely Automotive to produce electric sedans. The partnership's car was approved by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last June.
This was all happening just as Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) was lighting up investors with stellar gains in 2013. Major car manufacturers were having mixed success putting out plug-in vehicles, but Tesla became a rock star at the high end of the market. Given Kandi's shift to sedans and its explosive growth, the stock began popping up on some investing radars as the Tesla Motors of China.
Kandi has grown up in a hurry. Revenue climbed 47% to $94.5 million last year, and more than half of that came during the fourth quarter when revenue spiked 92% to $50.6 million. The spike in electric vehicles is the undisputed driver here. Electric vehicles have gone from accounting for nearly 30% of total Kandi sales in 2012 to 49% last year. The mix improved to nearly 80% during Kandi's latest quarter.
Not everyone is a believer. Jim Cramer has talked down the stock in back-to-back weeks during the Lightning Round segment of "Mad Money". Two weeks ago, it was simply a matter of recommending a different company.
"I'm a Polaris Industries (NYSE:PII) fan," he said on the show. "I'd go with them."
It wasn't Cramer's finest hour. Polaris is a maker of off-road vehicles such as ATVs, snowmobiles, and even motorcycles. This may have been a good match to Kandi around 2011 or 2012, but it doesn't seem like an appropriate substitute for Kandi given how the majority of its revenue now stems from Tesla's stronghold, electric cars.
This could be why Cramer revisited Kandi last Monday, but he only became more vocal in his displeasure. He pointed out how the stock had quadrupled over the past year, and that now it was just too risky to own. Appreciation alone isn't a sound knock. Tesla has actually performed even better over the past year.
Cramer didn't stop there. He alluded to a November SEC investigation that has yet to stick. He also had his concerns about the limited analyst coverage on Kandi, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for opportunistic investors with a better-than-average read on the company.
If Kandi bulls thought that Cramer was out of line a week earlier when he compared the company to a snowmobile maker, then they weren't going to appreciate his tirade that followed a few days later.
"As far as I can tell, the electric car side of the story is more about hopes and dreams than reality at this point," he said. "There's nothing that suggests to me Kandi is anywhere close to becoming the next Tesla."
It doesn't seem fair to talk about "hopes and dreams" when the "reality" is that Kandi sold more than 3,000 electric vehicles in its most recent quarter. Its upcoming participation in electric-vehicle, car-sharing programs in larger cities than Hangzhou points to an even busier future.
Cramer's entitled to his opinion, of course. However, the lack of analyst coverage will benefit Kandi if it continues to issue blowout results through 2014. After seeing the stock plunge 37% since peaking a little more than two weeks ago, the real opportunity here appears to be resting on the long side.
Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Polaris Industries and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.