Tesla Motors, Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) has overcome seemingly endless challenges to get to where it is today. In the process, the electric carmaker has generously rewarded early shareholders. However, the stock's rich valuation (shares are currently trading around 82 times next year's earnings) has many investors scratching their heads. Moreover, Tesla's price-to-sales ratio of 11 tells us that investors are paying roughly $11 for every $1 of sales the company generates. This certainly isn't ideal. Especially when compared to industry peers such as BMW, for which people are currently paying $0.69 for every dollar.
So why are investors willing to buy the stock at such a high cost, you ask? The answer is simple: the promise of future sales growth. The market is currently valuing Tesla shares 16 times more expensive than BMW because it believes Tesla's growth prospects are far greater. Strong consumer demand is a key ingredient for boosting sales year over year, and Tesla's new "happiness guarantee" is yet another way the electric-car maker hopes to accomplish this.
A more compelling leasing option
The company's happiness guarantee offers leasing customers the option to return the car within the first three months without penalty for their remaining lease obligation. Sure, this is added risk for Tesla, because the auto manufacturer could end up with gently used inventory. However, the reward of attracting more lease customers clearly outweighs the risk here.
As part of this guarantee, Tesla has also teamed up with US Bank to offer potential Model S drivers a more reasonable leasing plan. One of the major problems up to this point was that leasing a Model S was expensive (starting at $1,200 a month). Thanks to US Bank's lower cost of capital compared to Tesla, monthly lease payments are now 25% lower -- thus creating a more compelling value proposition for consumers. Under the new leasing terms, you can now lease the 60 kWh version of the Model S for around $832 a month.
This is a significant improvement over the prior lease pricing available to drivers. It is also more in line with lease prices from other luxury automakers, including Audi and BMW. Ultimately, the new pricing, together with Tesla's happiness guarantee, should fuel demand by offering customers a better value.
It's worth mentioning that these new leasing options are currently only available in the U.S., and only in 38 states. For investors, it is important to keep in mind that Tesla's new leasing arrangement with US Bank won't change the amount of revenue the EV maker generates from lease sales. Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, was quick to clarify this both on Twitter and in a blog post.
This is therefore a win for investors and potential Model S drivers. Not to mention, the company's new dual-motor and autopilot version of the car is another factor that should accelerate demand for Tesla in the quarters ahead. In his third-quarter shareholder letter last week, Musk said management expects at the very least a 50% spike in both net orders and deliveries for Model S in 2015. The takeaway here is that Tesla's new leasing program and happiness guarantee should make investors as well as potential lease customers very happy. Nonetheless, investors will also want to keep an eye on the company's upcoming Model X when deliveries commence next year. This is ultimately one more stepping stone for the EV maker on its path to a mass-market vehicle.