Lots of people want to say Elon Musk is the new Steve Jobs. Or Henry Ford. Or the engineering genius Nikolai Tesla -- who, of course, is the namesake of Elon Musk's red hot car and even hotter stock, which has been blasting through the stratosphere of my Best Stocks Now universe.
My own choice is Gandhi. Mostly for his famous quote about ideas and people whose time have come: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Today, Elon Musk and the company he founded, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), are in the winning stage.
Tesla went through the "ignore and laughing stage" rather quickly. Maybe because people had seen him do it before: Soon after college, he started and made tens of millions from selling an online city guide called Zip2.
He took that money and did the same with PayPal. Then, in 2002, he started a rocket ship company because he believes that is where the future of mankind is. In 2003, he started Tesla Motors. At first, it was easy to make fun of a $100,000 car with unproven technology, Hollywood movie star drivers, and limited range. With the 33-year wunderkind as the owner.
And many people did.
Musk had serious plans: "The goal of Tesla has always been to have a three-step process," he told an audience at the popular 2013 TED seminar. "Version one was an expensive car, low-volume. Version two is a medium-priced, medium-volume. And version three is low-priced, high-volume."
When he made this TED seminar last year, Musk was at the tail end of Gandhi's "they fight you" stage. A popular TV show had taken a few unfair shots at Tesla, so it sued and lost after an English judge said no reasonable viewer would believe the incorrect information the show spread about the car.
The New York Times ran a review last year making similar claims of short driving range and poor performance, but this time, Tesla was ready: It had installed a black box, which showed a vast difference between what the reporter said the car did -- and what the car actually did.
[And, oh yeah, did I forget to mention that in 2006, Musk and his cousins started SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) -- one of the few companies to figure out how to make money from solar? Another stock I recently added to my portfolio.]
Other magazines like Forbes did not like the fact that Tesla was making money from green energy credits and subsidies of various kinds. That was a year ago. I did not much like it either, as a car, or a stock when it was trading at $35. Six months later, it was peaking at $194.50.
Did it bother me I missed a 600 percent increase in the stock? Not in the slightest.
But at $194.50, I did not like the way the Tesla chart was rolling over, so I put out a warning on it. I called it the most overpriced stock, with the ugliest stock chart in the entire market at the time. The stock got hit hard, finally ending up at $116.
It dropped from my Best Stocks Now app Top 300 all the way down to a rank of 3,214. That was just three months ago. And since then, it has come back with a 92 percent gain. They did it with lots of innovations that convinced even the most dedicated skeptics. Including me.
In January 2013, Motor Trend named the Tesla S as "Car of the Year." Soon after, Consumer Reports rated the Tesla S with a 99 out of 100. "It's what Marty McFly might have brought back in place of his DeLorean in Back to the Future," gushed the consumer testing magazine.
Musk and his Tesla company make a real car, with real innovations, that real people really, really want to buy. It takes two months just to test drive a Tesla. A used Tesla is worth more than a new Tesla. The gearheads love it too. Almost as much as the environmentalists.
That was all good, but still not good enough. I wanted to see some performance -- not from the car, but from the company. And that is why I added it to my Conservative Growth Portfolio. They had blowout earnings recently.
I made the buy a few days before Morgan Stanley issued its now famous buy recommendation, which in cold day in February, added 18 percent to an already hot stock.
So, I am a believer in Mr. Elon Musk. He is an innovator. A fighter. A money maker.
Let's look at the Tesla, the stock: I bought it, here is why. Let's begin with performance:
Is this one of the best performing stocks in the market or what? What!
Over the last three years, the stock has delivered returns of 117% per year. The stock is up 602.9% over the last twelve months. Teslamania? Too bad Elon Musk cannot appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Teslamania aside, here is how to buy a Tesla for $10,000. Invest $10k in the stock three years ago. Today, that $10,000 is worth $102,183. Enough to buy the most loaded model that Tesla has to offer, and still get your original investment back. You can use that to buy shares in Elon Musk's other stock, SolarCity.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, but I believe an investment in Tesla today still might get you one of those shiny red cars for a steep discount a few years down the road.
Here is what Elon Musk needs to do with his company for that to happen. Thirteen analysts currently follow the company. Their estimates for earnings over the next 12 months range from a low of $1.90 to a high of $5.50. The consensus currently stands at $3.91.
Stocks trade on expectations, and right now these are the expectations.
Earnings at Tesla are expected to grow by 144% this year and 106% next year. Over the next five years, earnings growth are expected to average 52% per year. Let's put a pencil to this growth:
Year one=$3.91 per share
Year two=$5.94 per share
Year three=$9.03 per share
Year four=$13.73 per share
Year five=$20.87 per share
Outrageous, you say? Priceline.com (NASDAQ:PCLN) is expected to earn $63.89 per share next year. Everyone thought I was crazy when I wrote my first book, Best Stocks Now™, and said that Priceline's stock was headed for $940. The stock was at $458 at the time.
The stock is now at $1375.
I also said in my book that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was headed for $800 per share. Another outrageous claim at the time, as the stock was trading at just $359. It did not quite get there, but it did soar to $705.
And how about my prediction that a simple auto parts store named AutoZone (NYSE:AZO) (then trading at $252) would hit $500 down the road? The stock currently trades at $561.
Now, I am saying that Tesla has the potential to hit $465 per share. Has Gunderson gone crazy again?
Let's complete our math equation.
Going on today's expectations - if Elon Musk executes his plan and the analysts are close to being right, the company has the potential to be making $20.87 per share five years from now.
What would the company be worth then?
What kind of earnings multiple would a company that has just averaged 50% growth per year for the last five years deserve at the time? I would think that a multiple in the range of 20-25 would be appropriate. Let's go somewhere in the middle.
$20.87 X 22.5=$469.57
I have rounded it off to $465 per share. At that price, Tesla would have a market cap of $57 billion by 2018.
Tesla just reported gross margins of 23.9%. By contrast, GM has margins of 10.6%, and Ford's are 9.9%. Ford and GM are currently giving folks incentives of up to $7,500 to take one of their trucks off of their hands.
For $5,000 and a signed sales contract, Tesla will move you up the list to take a coveted test drive in one of their cars. Bank of America (Merrill Lynch) came out with a valuation of $65 on Tesla's stock on Thursday.
You do the math.
Conservative growth (large and mid-cap stocks) investors at Gunderson Capital Mgt. currently are long the stock. As always, we are not married to it. If Tesla fails to meet my performance, valuation, and/or technical criteria at some point in the future, it will be sold.
Disclosure: I am long TSLA. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.