- Elon Musk believes Tesla will produce an affordable self-driving car in the next three years.
- ARK Invest values the autonomous ride-hailing market at $1.2 trillion by 2030.
- Tesla stock currently trades at an extremely rich valuation.
Cathie Wood has long been bullish on Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA). In fact, she made a name for her asset management firm (ARK Invest) in 2019 when she put a $4,000 price target on the stock. Since then, shares have undergone a 5-for-1 split, meaning that her original share price target now corresponds to $800.
Of course, Tesla stock hit $900 a share earlier this year. And though it’s fallen by 27% since then, Wood is more bullish than ever. In fact, ARK Invest recently bumped its price target to $3,000 per share by 2025. That represents 365% upside, or an annualized return of 47% over the next four years.
So, should you add Tesla to your portfolio? Let’s take a look under the hood.
Image source: Getty Images.
Tesla is the market-leading manufacturer of electric vehicles (EVs). Last year, the company sold 499,500 EVs, capturing 16% of the global market. And that momentum has carried into 2021, as Tesla produced 206,400 vehicles in the second quarter, up 150% over the prior year.
That rapid scaling underscores one of Tesla’s key advantages: manufacturing efficiency. In fact, CEO Elon Musk has often said this would be the company’s primary long-term advantage, and he now has data to back that claim: Tesla posted an industry-leading operating margin of 6.3% in 2020.
How did that happen? Last year, Tesla ramped production of the Model 3 and started producing the Model Y at Gigafactory Shanghai. This helped expand and localize its China business, offering a cost-efficient alternative to importing vehicles. At the same time, the company started making the Model Y at its factory in Fremont, California, further boosting capacity.
In both cases, Tesla’s highly automated, scalable approach to manufacturing is paying off. The Model Y was immediately profitable, marking the first time in the company’s history that a new product achieved profitability in its first quarter of production. Investors should look for this trend to continue.
However, while Tesla’s performance in 2020 was impressive, the company’s future looks even brighter. Tesla recently unveiled its new 4680 battery cell, an innovative design that will slash production costs by 56%, increase EV range by 54%, and cut capital expenditure by 69%.
During the most recent earnings call, Musk said Tesla is roughly 12 to 18 months away from “volume production of the 4680.” But on the bright side, he believes this technology will allow Tesla to build a fully autonomous $25,000 EV in the next three years.
Image source: Tesla.
If Tesla does indeed build an affordable self-driving EV in the next three years, it would expand the company’s market opportunity dramatically. Rather than simply making cars, Tesla could follow through on its plan to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service, a market that ARK Invest values at $1.2 trillion by 2030.
To add, Tesla could also sell its self-driving software to other automakers. In fact, Musk has already had “preliminary discussions about licensing autopilot.” In either case, this would transform Tesla’s business, replacing its dependence on cyclical hardware sales (i.e., EVs) with highly recurring revenue in the form of ride fares or software subscription fees.
Of course, before rushing to buy the stock, investors should consider Tesla’s valuation. Shares currently trade at an absurd 19.8 times sales, while automakers like General Motors trade at a much more reasonable 0.7 times sales.
However, a decade from now, that valuation may not look so crazy if Tesla does disrupt the mobility industry. For what it’s worth, I’m a Tesla shareholder and I wouldn’t sell this stock if it got cut in half tomorrow. In fact, I’d buy more.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.