Good question. When a user leaves his driveway in a Tesla, he still wastes time staring out a windshield and gripping a wheel. He still sits in traffic. As with any other car, Tesla’s electronics are long out of date before the car’s useful life has expired. As with any other car, a Tesla owner ties up thousands of dollars in a piece of equipment that sits idle 95% of the time. Uber is disruptive. Tesla isn’t. Tesla is disruptive mostly of a driver’s confidence that he’s going to reach his destination without needing a tow.
Tesla solves no problem of the automobile. It only creates a new problem.
Nonetheless Tesla’s stock price is impressive, even if it is down recently. At $25 billion, Tesla is worth almost half of Ford, though Ford sells 70 times as many vehicles, and profitably.
As the perpetually blunt Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler has pointed out, Obama fuel-economy rules virtually require car companies to produce electric cars at a loss. Part of Tesla’s market value, then, is attributable to the likelihood that it will be acquired by another car maker needing electric vehicles to offset its gasoline-powered vehicles. But here’s an irony: In a world where other car makers are forced to build and sell electric cars too, Tesla’s golden brand gives it a leg up, but Tesla does not have the option of forever losing money on electric cars. To fully realize its brand value Tesla might have to sell itself to an auto maker that does.