Shares of China's Kandi Technologies Group (NASDAQ:KNDI) soared 27% yesterday after announcing strong sales of the electric cars that it's making in a joint venture with Geely. An impressive 4,114 of the venture's Kandi brand electric vehicles were sold during the second quarter, a healthy sequential uptick from the 1,215 all-electric cars that it sold during this year's first quarter.
Some investors call Kandi the Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) of China, but as I've pointed out before, that's a comparison that isn't really fair to either company. Tesla is starting to make inroads in China, but it's the clear global leader when it comes to premium-priced, plug-in sedans. Its cars can top six figures if dolled up accordingly. Kandi, on the other hand, markets electric vehicles that are small and cheap. Its flagship platform is a Zipcar-like auto-sharing operation that launched in Hangzhou last year that rents out the petite cars for $3 an hour through high-tech multilevel garages that roll out cars as they are ordered. In a region where bicycles and scooters remain the way that all but the wealthy get around, Kandi's arming Hangzhou's middle class with a more convenient way to shop for groceries or visit friends and relatives.
It's not a matter of investors choosing between Tesla and Kandi. They are entirely different companies, five letter corporate monikers notwithstanding. Tesla is a widely followed company with a $28 billion market cap. Kandi lacks major analyst coverage, and that's a bit of a surprise since the stock nearly tripled last year and is now up 58% so far in 2014 after yesterday's surge. Despite the rally, Kandi packs a modest market cap of $760 million.
Whether investors decide to buy into Tesla, Kandi, both, or neither as a play on China's push to electric vehicles, it's an undeniable trend. Given the drastic air pollution situation in China's largest cities, the country is making it more lucrative to move away from gas-slurping rides. Come September the government will suspend the 10% sales tax it charges on electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and other fuel-cell vehicles. This is part of China's larger goal to have millions of electric vehicles on its roadways by 2020. If Kandi is having success with its auto-sharing platform and group leasing model now, it should be even more popular in the future.
Kandi isn't alone in cranking out electric vehicles, but it's clearly at the right place at the right time.