Two summers ago, I visited a Tesla Motors
Just don't tell that to most Tesla investors. Legions of investors and reporters are disgruntled over the company's lack of profitability. Most have become absorbed by one line in its IPO prospectus that reads, "We have a history of losses and we expect significant increases in our costs and expenses to result in continuing losses for at least the foreseeable future."
This comment, from the Denver Post, has been the common reaction:
"How does Tesla fulfill the promise and hopes of the investors pumping more than $200 million into this company?" asked John O'Dell, an analyst with the auto blog Green Car Advisor. "This is a company that's never made a profit."
The criticism is justified -- to a point. Tesla bleeds cash, of course. But when I hear these comments, part of me wants to scream "Well, yeah. What do you expect?!" Plenty seem to wonder why Tesla isn't profitable, paying a dividend, and funding a corporate philanthropy foundation. I'd like to offer a snotty but truthful answer: because it's a late-stage start-up company.
Frankly, I'd be worried if a company in Tesla's stage of development were profitable. I'd take it as a sign that it wasn't pushing the boundaries hard enough. No one should buy Tesla with expectations of near-term earnings. You should buy it for the possibility that 10 or 20 years from now, it'll be the next Ford
In some ways, I view this as the polar opposite of 1999. Back then, investors balked at companies that were profitable, instead clamoring for start-ups that had nothing to show but a dream that would blow your socks off. At the time, Berkshire Hathaway
Are investors being just as unfair to Tesla for the opposite reason? I want to hear what you think in the comment section below.
Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Berkshire Hathaway and Ford Motor are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.