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Tesla now worth more than Chrysler, but GM, Ford?

Tesla Motor’s spectacular stock price climb has led to a milestone that divided analysts on the nature of the company itself.

Should Tesla be considered an automaker, a tech company –or both? It makes a high-end luxury car, but lately its stock has behaved like it belongs alongside Google, Apple or Amazon.

A man takes a photo of the new Tesla Model S all-electric sedan at the car’s unveiling in Hawthorne, Calif.
Tesla shares closed Wednesday at $166.45, cementing a 371% price gain so far this year. This week, the company’s value passed the $20 billion milestone. At that level, Tesla is now valued as being almost half of the value of General Motors and a third of Ford. It left Chrysler, and its parent Fiat, in the valuation rear-view mirror months ago.

They are the kind of stock gains reserved for tech firms, not automakers. So what are they?

CEO Elon Musk described Tesla as “an automotive technology company” in an interview with CNBC last week. The recent stock price increase is “more than we have a right to deserve.”

Some analysts agree. “Tesla doesn’t reflect the traditional automaker stock valuation for the same reason that isn’t valued in the same way as a traditional book seller, ” says Andrea James, senior research analyst for Dougherty & Co., based in Minneapolis.

But while noting Tesla is a “new breed” of automaker unsaddled by outdated factories or expensive labor contracts, John O’Dell, analyst for car buying website says “in the long run, it’s going to have to be judged as an auto company.”

Tesla expects to deliver 21,000 Model S sedans this year at prices that now start at $71,070, including shipping and before federal tax rebates. But that production level is peanuts compared to the output of major automakers.



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