If you've been nervously watching as the price of Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) stock has spiked this month, worried that sitting on the sidelines could be a mistake, it may be time to put your anxiety aside and get some skin in the game. Driving in the fast lane with the company's charismatic founder and CEO Elon Musk could be dangerous, but, as Lux Research analyst Jacob Grose put it, Tesla is an "important bellwether of EV technology."
Since its inception, Tesla has burned through roughly $230 million in cash, while only generating $148 million in revenue. Losses are expected to continue as it prepares to bring its Model S to market in 2012. The basic electric sedan will sell for $57,400.
It's not just investors who feel compelled to make an important decision about whether or not to follow the Tesla lead as the electric car movement picks up speed. The heads of the major auto manufacturers are in that same boat. No one wants to be left behind, and some have boldly stepped forward to partner with Musk and Tesla.
Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota, recently showed his mettle. Prior to a meeting at Musk's Bel Air home in April, Toyoda accepted an invitation by Musk to take his red Tesla Roadster for a spin. The 53-year-old Toyota chief, a certified race car driver, reportedly had Musk's head pinned to the seat as he sped through the hills above Sunset Boulevard.
That marked the first time Toyoda and Musk had met. The Toyota CEO was reportedly captivated by the Roadster, Silicon Valley's culture of innovation and, most of all, Musk himself. Four weeks later, Toyota signed a $50 million deal to partner with Tesla. When asked why he decided to collaborate with the startup, Toyoda looked at Musk and said, "I love him." In honor of their new relationship, Musk gave Toyoda a Roadster 2.5 as a personal gift at Tesla's showroom in Tokyo earlier this month.
Tesla was founded in 2003. Nearly four years after the Silicon Valley startup pioneered the electric vehicle, General Motors (NYSE:GM) decided it was time to follow suit. Based on Tesla's proof of concept, vice-chair Bob Lutz persuaded GM to develop the electric prototype Chevy Volt, which it unveiled in January 2007.
Tesla has provided Daimler with the battery expertise it needed to allow the auto maker to develop its Smart and Mercedes-Benz A-Class electric cars. In return, Daimler has also partnered with Tesla, making a $50 million investment in the smaller company that was necessary to help keep it afloat.
The key to success for Tesla and the electric car movement is the development of superior battery technology that is affordable. As Tesla is widely believed to have the most technologically advanced EV battery pack available, Panasonic recently made a $30 million investment in Tesla in an effort to establish itself as the top battery maker for electric cars.
Disclosure: Long TSLA.