Think fast: what’s the one stock that more people are shorting than any other in the Russell 1000 right now?
That would be Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA). At the moment, some 64 percent of the stock’s public float is sold short. That’s a remarkably high number considering that the next most shorted stock, Alliance Data Systems Corp. (NYSE:ADS), has 36 percent of its public float sold short.
A few authors are speculating that the dramatic short interest comes from GM’s IPO, which drummed up about as much press as the new Harry Potter film – maybe even more if that’s possible. Now that the Chevy Volt is officially on the horizon, people seem to be looking at Tesla in their rear-view mirrors.
I’m not convinced that’s smart, and here are three reasons why:
1) Tesla’s leadership. Tesla’s chairman and CEO is young and entrepreneurial. Elon Musk doesn’t come with preconceived notions about how the car industry is supposed to work. That could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view. One thing we do know, though, is his company surprised the hell out of GM and Toyota when it started using lithium-ion batteries in working cars. GM exec Robert Lutz said in 2007 that the Tesla Roadster was one of the main inspirations for the Chevy Volt.
“All the geniuses here at General Motors kept saying lithium-ion technology is 10 years away, and Toyota agreed with us – and boom, along comes Tesla,” Lutz says. “So I said, ‘How come some tiny little California startup, run by guys who know nothing about the car business, can do this, and we can’t?’ That was the crowbar that helped break up the log jam.”
2) Tesla’s partnerships. The company is cultivating relationships with Daimler and Toyota. Tesla has partnered with Toyota to manufacture a drivetrain and battery pack for Toyota’s all-electric RAV4 SUV. The car will have a range of 100 miles, and it’s expected to be on the road by 2012. The nice part is, it’ll start generating cash for Tesla right away. The company’s also producing battery packs for Daimler’s electric smart car. Again, that’s money in the bank.
3) Tesla’s Model S. The base model of Tesla’s all-electric family sedan, the Model S, should start hitting roads in 2012. On the low-end, the car is expected to retail for just under $50,000 if the consumer takes advantage of a $7,500 federal tax credit. The car will come with three different battery options – one of which will be capable of powering the Model S for up to 300 miles on a single charge. That’s 10 times what the Chevy Volt will do on a charge, and you’ll never have to use gas again.
Tesla’s making the cars of the future today. Even if GM catches up, it’s going to take some time, and that’ll make Tesla brand perfect for partnerships (possibly even a takeover) for years to come. Yes, they’re a long way from profitability, but it’s coming, and I have a feeling Tesla will make a lot of people rich on its journey.