The late 2021 case for buying and holding TSLA (yes…still) November 11, 2021 cliffski I blogged about how you should buy shares in Tesla many years ago, then I revised it. The first revision was able to happily mention that the stock had tripled since I first blogged about it. Well… its quintupled since then. (There was a 5:1 share split, so it looks like its about flat but is anything but…). Given that a stock is now worth 15 times what it was when I first suggested buying the stock, how can I possibly not be selling? How does this make sense? This is just a meme stock right? No. Lets update some figures since I last blogged on the topic. Here are numbers a year on from the last blog post: In 2020 Tesla produced 499,950 vehicles. (vs 367k)The market cap of the company is currently $1.06 Trillion. (vs 180bn)The automotive gross margin is approximately 30.5% (vs 25%)YoY revenue growth is 28% (vs 38%) Those are all VERY good numbers, but given a 5x increase in the stock, you would expect absolutely insane numbers, so on the face of it, this is pretty underwhelming. The number of vehicles produced is still only half a million in 2020, and revenue growth was great but not incredible. However, there is massive, massive context. Vehicle Production Firstly, the year 2020 is now so far in the rear view mirror its almost laughable to try and assess the correct stock price with 2020 figures. It makes more sense to look at quarterly figures to see the real picture. Here are the last 4 quarters Q4 20 180k vehiclesQ1 21 184k vehiclesQ2 21 201k vehiclesQ3 21 241k vehicles If you extrapolate from Q3, we are looking than an annual run rate of 964,000 vehicles. Thats pretty good when we compare it to 499k, but probably does not justify a 5x stock growth. The two points to be aware of here are: Firstly… we have just had the twin pains of a global supply crunch caused by covid19 combined with a chip shortage that has effectively paralyzed the car industry Secondly, Tesla are imminently (ie: likely December) opening TWO new factories. One in Berlin, One in Texas. Both are HUGE. Both of these will easily match the shanghai factory. Meanwhile, the Fremont factory (where Tesla started) is basically the runt of the litter. A badly designed, un-optimized mess built originally to make ICE vehicles. Analysts have given Tesla a lot of credit for weathering supply chain and ship shortage woes far better than any other car company. Take a look at global car sales from the big brands and you would see almost everyone is heavily DOWN year on year, except Tesla and some super niche luxury brands. Why? 2 reasons: Tesla is very vertically integrated, so it can handle a lot of supply chain issues internally, and secondly, its very software centric. Tesla managed to adapt to chip shortages by rewriting its own firmware to use different chips. Volkswagen just do not have this expertise, and nor does Toyota, GM or Ford. So…vehicle deliveries are pretty good considering the market, and set to explode pretty heavily next year as Texas and Berlin start producing cars. Thats great… but again we are talking a 5x stock growth so… we need to be dazzled more. Profitability Did you notice that the automotive gross margin actually went UP? (you would expect it to fall as the company moved from luxury sports cars to more affordable models like the 3 and the Y) TBH it was already exceptionally good, but it looks like the profit margins on Tesla cars are actually rising, quite considerably. Best of all, the model Y is likely the same cost to produce as the 3, yet sells for way more. The introduction of new casting methods to hugely simplify assembly is likely to make the Y even cheaper to produce, and a shift to 4680 batteries and a structural battery pack will push costs lower still. Meanwhile, Tesla keeps increasing the price of the model Y. Having a Texas and Berlin factory will reduce the shipping cost to the customer as well, and stop Tesla paying EU import tariffs. Much was made recently of Hertz ordering 100,000 model 3 cars from Tesla. They even ran an ad campaign about it. This is a car company that spends $0 on advertising, and yet its business partners actually do the ads for you. This is nuts. Plus it means Tesla don’t need to give a damn about arranging test drives. You want to try one out? go to hertz. If not… there is no shortage of demand. Hertz ordered 100,000 cars (to start with) and got 0 discount. To the great masses of opinionated ‘analysts’ on twitter, that sounds like it cannot be true, but if you follow Teslas order backlog and wait times, you know its true. If hertz didn’t want to pay full price, they can go elsewhere, the model 3 backlog is huge already. The model Y is also massively in demand. I ordered one recently, and am told to expect it in April/May maybe. If I’m lucky. Paid full price, obviously. There are zero discounts on teslas cars… In the US… it looks like people are going to get a $7,500 tax rebate when they buy an EV, with no upper limit on how many cars this applies to. Conveniently Tesla have raised the model Y price about $8,000 this year. That means all someone in the US ordering now, will get the car for the same price in January, but Tesla make ANOTHER $8k profit on top of the already high gross margin. The 2022 profit margin for Tesla is going to be embarrassingly high. Competition What competition? Much is made of a long sad history of cars that were considered to be ‘Tesla Killers’. One by one they have come and gone. Arguably the Porsche taycan is a good car, if you don’t want a supercharger network, autonomy or over-the-air software updates, AND want to pay an extra $50k for the privilege… but the audi-e-tron? who cares? its just a rounding error in terms of EV sales next to Teslas mass-market cars. Illustrative chart below: Does it really look like the VW ID.3 or ID.4 are any competition? It sure does not look that way, especially as VW seems top be in crisi meeting after crisis meeting trying to persuade its own workforce that making EVs at some point in the future might be a good idea maybe? Meanwhile any German engineers actually interested in working in EVs have likely left to join Teslas Berlin factory. The Future There are so many catalysts to push Tesla’s profitability and net income higher its almost ridiculous, but lets go through a few of the big ones. Firstly, they have over a million pre-orders for the cybertruck. Yes really, yes, the one you think looks weird. Yes, its really going to be built, and yes, its going to be incredibly popular. The plan is that they start building them next year. These vehicles look so unusual they all act like billboards for the company. Secondly, they are switching to a structural battery pack and 4680 format batteries linked to front and end cast metal design. All three of these changes are about a single metric: efficiency. When efficiency is better, you car is both cheaper to make, and gets better range and performance. The comparison of Tesla efficiency versus other EV’s is telling, and thats current models: Model 3 240 wh/mileNissan Leaf 260 wh/mileVW ID.3 265wh/mileAudi e-tron 290 wh/mileFord Mach-e 315 wh/mile In other words, rivals are charging more, for less. And thats also without a supercharger network or over-the-air updates or autonomy. (oh I forgot to mention Tesla is starting to earn revenue from selling use of its supercharger network to owners of non tesla EVs. A hilariously good marketing channel to known EV-buyers, that will cost Tesla nothing, in fact people will pay them money to sit and stare at a big red tesla symbol as they charge…) Thirdly, the long awaited improvements to autopilot are rolling out, meaning a LOT of ‘deferred revenue’ for selling ‘full self driving’ can be recognized as profit over the next few years. Fourthly, the semi-truck is coming, which will be a BIG part of the business. Fifthly, there will be eventual revenue from cloud computing of neural network training thanks to teslas’ in-house designed chip that forms a scalable supercomputer. (yes really). Sixthly: slowly but surely Tesla are rolling out their own insurance product. Eventually they will sell you the car (direct, at 0 advertising and 0 discount and 0 dealership fee), the fuel (via supercharger network), the insurance, and software/entertainment services in the car, through payments for premium connectivity, and an autopilot subscription. Seventhly: Battery storage and solar roofs. This is a business that has floundered a bit for the last 5 or so years, but Tesla are also in the energy storage and generation market. This gives them an advantage over every other provider of such services, as they can leverage the brand built on the car business to cross sell solar panels and home battery storage. They are obtaining licenses to even sell you power, starting in Texas. So yup, I’m holding Tesla stock, at least until three or four of the above things become common knowledge. Until then, most analysts, and almost all retail investors have absolutely zero clue as to the future profit potential of this company. Lots of credit should go to Rob Maurers excellent, hyperbole-free youtube channel in which all this stuff is plainly spelled out for everyone to investigate for themselves.