Shares in Elon Musk’s electric car firm have risen more than 700% during 2020 to become the world’s most valuable car company.
But it’s been a roller-coaster ride for long-term investors with wild swings since it joined the stock market a decade ago.
For those who have stuck with Tesla, it has been a very wealthy journey.
This month was a milestone for the car company as it joined the S&P 500, an index of the biggest stocks in the US which includes the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. Tesla shares rocketed and it became one of the top 10 most valued companies on the index.
Tesla stock is now worth more than the combined valuations of General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Toyota. Yet, Tesla makes just a fraction of the cars of its more established rivals.
“Tesla is a very polarising stock. It has its fans, many of whom do own Tesla cars, and its fair share of critics, particularly in the financial community, who say the company’s shares are overvalued,” said Will Rhind, chief executive at investment firm GraniteShares.
“Investors that bought shares early on, have done very well and some are now millionaires as a result.”
Much of Tesla’s share price growth has come from its improving car sales, boosted by strong demand from China and hopes of subsidies for electric vehicles. The shift towards electric cars globally has put car companies like Tesla in the sweet spot.
Many investors also believe there is strong growth to come from other parts of Tesla’s business including its self-driving software and battery power storage.
Tesla went public in June 2010 at a price of $17 per share. This week, the price stood at more than $650 – and that’s even after a 5-for-1 stock split earlier this year that boosted the number of shares in circulation.
Given its rapid share price rise this year, even more surprising given it has come during a global pandemic, Tesla critics say it is overvalued.
In a research note earlier this month, analysts at JPMorgan wrote:”Tesla shares are in our view and by virtually every conventional metric not only overvalued, but dramatically so”.
But other investment experts argue not to look at Tesla as just a car company. “Part of the appeal of Tesla for many investors is that it is more than a car company and the success of their batteries will open many revenue streams,” said Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at OANDA.
“Think about the role Tesla is playing in the transition from fossil fuels to electric power and storage. In that sense, the question for investors today is how do you value the technology of tomorrow?” added Mr Rhind.
Tesla also sells solar panels and back-up residential power for homes.
There is an army of fans who believe strongly in Tesla and predict the share price to continue rising, based on a bright future for Elon Musk’s car firm.
Los Angeles-based engineer Jason DeBolt’s first investment in Tesla was 2,500 shares which cost him $19,000. “I first started investing in Tesla in 2013 after purchasing a Tesla Model S and going on a factory tour,” he said. Since then, he has been buying more shares, and the 15,000 he now owns are worth around $10m.
He agreed it has been a roller-coaster ride as a long-term investor and that “it was very difficult seeing the media attack Elon and Tesla. That was worse for me than the share price decline, which I knew would eventually bounce back.”
Mr DeBolt is a member of the Tesla Shareholders Club and regularly chats with other investors via the Facebook group.
New York-based Scott Tisdale began investing in Tesla when he first laid eyes on the Model S back in 2013 and has built up a holding of around 4,000 shares which are currently worth around $2.8m.
“I am not finished investing in them yet because I think their real story is just about to begin and people have been saying the stock is ‘overvalued’ since before the time I began to buy it,” he said.
“As amazing as it is to be included in this growing group of ‘Teslanaires’, it is almost as satisfying to be able to tell all the naysayers ‘I told you so.'”
The road ahead
Experts say it is unlikely Tesla’s share price will see growth of more than 700% again next year, limiting the number of new Teslanaires created.
They also point to growing competition from the likes of Apple which has revitalised plans to build an electric car along with Chinese rivals. “Tesla’s competition has bigger pockets and can afford to take bigger risk,” added OANDA’s Mr Moya.
Investment experts also caution about investing in a single stock and recommend funds that spread your money across a number of companies.