Tesla Motors shares flirt with $200, still close at record price

Shares of Tesla Motors crossed the $200 barrier Thursday before falling back, but still closed at a record level for the upstart automaker.

The electric car company's closing price of $199.63, a gain of $4.31, or 2.2%, from the previous day, gives it a market value of $24.5 billion.


Put another way, it is worth about $1.1 million for each of the 22,450 Model S cars it sold last year. The cars sell for $70,000 to $100,000, depending on options.

The market value of General Motors Co. is about $56 billion, or about $5,200 for each of the 10.7 million cars it sold globally last year.

"Tesla is not something that should be compared to a conventional car company," said Craig Irwin, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

Investors consider Tesla a high-growth tech company rather than a mature automaker, he said.

"Nobody is buying this for sales of 30,000 or so cars a year," Irwin said. "It's about the future."

Shares of the company were trading at about $148 in early November, when the Palo Alto automaker said a battery shortage was limiting sales and that it was spending heavily on research and development to bring new models to market.

But Irwin issued a price target of $205 for the company.

Tesla is putting money into the Model X crossover, its second model. It also is working on a third-generation electric vehicle, which would be a mass-market car expected to sell in the hundreds of thousands.

"When you look at the picture painted for Tesla, it is an amazing story, and that is why it receives the valuation that it does," he said.

Already, Tesla has cut the cost of its battery pack and electric power train to about what luxury brands Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi spend on their flagship models.

"Tesla has the ability to dramatically reduce the cost of the battery by almost half in roughly the next three to five years," Irwin said.

That cost reduction will make Tesla's so-called generation three electric car – a vehicle expected to  sell for less than $40,000 when it hits the market in several years – to be an economically viable, high-volume car, Irwin said.

"The Gen 3 will still be expensive compared to a Toyota Corolla but it will be economically compelling for a wide audience," he said. "That is why people are excited. This can change the automotive industry."


Tesla is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter and full-year 2013 financial results next week.


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