Many Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) shorts seem to think that anything negative that they say about Tesla is credible and worthy of endless repetition in article after article on Seeking Alpha. Not so! There are reasons to warn investors away from investing in Tesla, or at least knowing what they are getting into, but the prevalent reasons most repeatedly expressed on Seeking Alpha are not among them. With that intro, let's get into the meat:
Tesla short authors need not bother trying to convince Tesla buffs that deliveries = demand. It is well known that demand exceeds supply and will for the foreseeable future. Don't waste any screen space trying to argue otherwise. Tesla doesn't advertise. It has no need to. Word of mouth is sufficient to keep the queue full. Tesla still has markets it hasn't entered with the Model S, and the Model X is only about 3 quarters away from its first deliveries. The Gen III is the mass market car that everybody's been waiting for, and it will be coming in another two or three years. It will increase Tesla sales and capacity tenfold. The Fremont factory will be humming at full blast for as far into the future as projections can reasonably be made.
Tesla short authors need not bother trying to convince us that Tesla Model S suffers from fatal design flaws or execution problems on the production line that would result in higher than normal service rates or safety problems. Safety was the foremost in the design at every step. Practically every nut and bolt on a Tesla is installed by robots that automatically torque each fastener to exact specifications. Tesla is consistently rated highly by the NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and every other objective auto testing magazine or report. It doesn't matter whether it is safety, reliability, quality, or sheer joy of driving, Tesla consistently rates high on all objective scales, and it is an insult to our intelligence to tell us anything contrary.
Tesla short authors need not bother trying to convince us that a Model S is somehow not green. Compared to what? An ICE vehicle? Get real! Telling us that a Tesla runs on dirty old coal is stupid. Even running on electricity from a 100% coal-fired grid, a Tesla is cleaner in terms of emitted CO2 than an ICE vehicle. Get outta here! Are there potential environmental problems with manufacture of lithium ion batteries? Undoubtedly, if the manufacturer is not careful to source battery components and minerals responsibly. But I've seen nobody able to prove that Tesla sources its components irresponsibly. And Tesla has made clear that the gigafactory will be built responsibly and use responsible sources. It will also recycle old battery packs. The argument that Tesla battery packs are not recyclable is entirely spurious, built on the supposition that lithium ion batteries made without cobalt have nothing of value worth recycling. Well, Tesla batteries do have cobalt.
All that said, what should Tesla shorts concentrate on?
How about the ramp-up problem? Tesla is still in its infancy, yet it has a market cap of a company many times larger than it currently is. As of today, Yahoo finance lists it as $28.49B. By comparison Toyota is listed today at $187.36B. So Tesla is valued at 15.2% of Toyota. If we project forward to the end of the year, Tesla will be producing cars at a rate of 50K units per year. Toyota on the other hand produces cars at the rate of about 9M units per year. So Tesla will soon (end of 2014) grow to produce at the rate of .555% of Toyota. That's not even 1 full percentage point of one of the major manufacturers yet. I leave it to Tesla short writers to make of this disparity what they may. Why do I pick on Toyota and not GM or Ford or Chrysler? Because the Detroit Big Three have had (and possibly still have) huge problems that may be negatively impacting their valuations. Also, because at 9M units per year, Toyota is conveniently about one tenth (1/10) of the entire ICE auto industry.
Tesla is just now ready to break ground on its first gigafactory intended to make 500K battery packs when running at full capacity by the end of the decade. It has borrowed over $2B of the $5B cost to do so, and expects another $3B to come in from other partners, most notably Panasonic. Yet Tesla must grow the rest of the company tenfold in order to take full advantage of this capacity. Remember, they will only be able to build cars at the rate of 50K units per year at the end of this year, and they will need the capacity to build at the rate of 500K units per year to match the gigafactory. I have no doubt that the company will grow that much, but it will come at a cost in terms of capex, R&D, and other expense expansion. Just to spend the $2B that has been already borrowed over the next ten quarters will put the company in the red to the tune of $200M per quarter. Investors should not be expecting Tesla to show solid, consistent, GAAP profits any time soon. Tesla shorts should take note and write their articles accordingly.
Having seen what one gigafactory will do to Tesla profits for the next 10 quarters, here's some more news that should be of interest to Tesla investors and shorts alike: The gigafactory is expected to be only the first of many. Those extra foundations that are being poured in all likelihood will get used later. Even to grow Tesla to its current valuation of 15% of Toyota, Tesla will need not one, not two, but three gigafactories. But Tesla surely has much bigger ambitions than that. To grow to the full size of Toyota will take 20 gigafactories, considering that it will take at least a decade and half to do so and in that time Toyota will surely have grown as well. And as noted, Toyota is about 10% of the ICE auto industry, and it's Tesla's stated ambition to completely convert the entire auto industry to "sustainable transport" (all electric vehicles). That means, if Tesla is providing battery packs for the entire industry, that they will need 200 gigafactories. Now add in however many additional gigafactories you think SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) will need to supply stationary storage capacity to the solar power industry. I leave it to Tesla shorts to calculate the enormous implied capex and regale us with their findings.
In short, there are real issues that shorts can address with Tesla articles, but do not insult our intelligence with poorly thought out articles that rely on innuendo and falsehood when there is real substance to be discussed.
I am neither long nor short Tesla at this time, but I have owned Tesla in the past and I may buy it again at the right price in the future. I want Tesla to succeed, I just don't want Tesla investors to fool themselves into thinking that profits are in the immediate future for this company.
Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it. The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.