How to Trade the Detroit Auto Show

 |  Includes: DDAIF, F, GM, TSLA
by: Benzinga

By Jonathan Chen

Last week Wall Street focused on the Consumer Electronics Show, as investors, techies and companies all focused on the new products being revealed in Las Vegas.

This week Detroit takes the spotlight, as automobile makers like Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), and Daimler (DDAIF.PKI) show off the newest vehicles to consumers, analysts and investors. Some of the cars being showcased at the auto show are prototypes, but plenty of them are cars that will be available to consumers in the coming model years.

Ford was extremely impressive with its electric offerings, such as the electric version of the Focus and the C-MAX. Ford has around 2% of its sales in the electric car market, which has offerings such as the Chevy Volt and Tesla's (NASDAQ:TSLA) offering, the Roadster. The Roadster obviously is in a different price point, at over $100,000 per vehicle, but the fact that more auto companies are moving into the electric car market means it is here to stay.

Tesla is an interesting company to look at in this space. The company went public in the summer of 2010 to much fanfare, thanks in large part to its CEO Elon Musk. The CEO was the model for Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark in Iron Man 2, according to the director, Jon Favreau.

Musk is a visionary, and despite his personal financial troubles, Musk is a smart man who is betting big on the market. I would expect that once the Model S ships in 2012 to everyday consumers, that Tesla will be seen as a legitimate threat to the automakers, not just a novelty act.

Daimler (OTCPK:DDAIF) is another interesting name to consider for a longer term hold. As the owner of the prestigious Mercedes and Smart brands, Daimler has seen its share price recover as luxury goods have returned to their pre-crisis level of sales. Nothing says luxury more than a Mercedes, at least in my humble opinion.

As an investment, I like Ford and GM to perform the best over the short term, as the companies have proven, profitable models and the companies have transformed their operations around drastically from just a few years ago. Tesla, if it can operate, could be the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) of the auto industry.

Just ask another visionary CEO: Steve Jobs.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.