Tesla Inc.’s market value has climbed above Volkswagen Group’s for the first time to more than $100 billion, a threshold that will trigger a huge payout for Elon Musk if he can sustain the feat for months.
The electric-car maker’s shares soared as much as 8.6 percent on Wednesday to a new intraday high of $594.50. At that price, Tesla’s market capitalization was roughly $107.2 billion, exceeding Volkswagen’s $99.4 billion and trailing only Toyota Motor Corp. For the day, Tesla stock gained 4.1 percent to close at $569.56.
While Musk’s skeptics are dubious that Tesla should be worth more than a carmaker that sold almost 30 times as many vehicles last year, VW CEO Herbert Diess isn’t so dismissive. He’s been arguably the most vocal CEO among traditional carmakers to praise Tesla and point to its role in a radical shakeup of the more than century-old auto industry.
After saying three months ago that Tesla was no niche manufacturer anymore, Diess told top Volkswagen executives at an internal meeting in Germany last week that connected vehicles will almost double the time consumers spend online, and that cars will “become the most important mobile device.”
“If we see that, then we also understand why Tesla is so valuable from the view of analysts,” he said.
Diess, 61, is rolling out the industry’s largest electric-car fleet and aims to boost the company’s value to a level rivaling Toyota, whose $232 billion market cap is still more than Tesla and VW combined.
“Tesla has high innovative strength regarding battery-electric vehicles as well as connectivity, which can partly explain the high market capitalization,” Stefan Bratzel, a researcher at the Center of Automotive Management near Cologne, Germany, said in a report Wednesday. The relatively low valuation of traditional automakers is linked to uncertainty over whether they can navigate the looming industry shift, he said.
More than bragging rights
The jump above $100 billion is about more than just bragging rights for Musk, Tesla’s billionaire chief executive officer. He’s eligible to receive the first tranche of an all-or-nothing pay award if the company’s market value stays above that threshold for a sustained period. On paper, the first chunk of the award would net him about $346 million.
Tesla shares have more than doubled since the company reported a surprise third-quarter profit and told investors it was ahead of schedule bringing out its next product, the Model Y crossover, and opening its factory near Shanghai.
The stock has room to run as Tesla grows in China, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives wrote in a report Wednesday. He boosted his target price to $550 from $370 while maintaining the equivalent of a hold rating.
Gary Black, who was CEO of Aegon Asset Management from mid 2016 through September and now holds Tesla as a private investor, said he expects Tesla to earn more than VW by 2025 and believes consensus estimates for vehicle deliveries this year are too low. He expects Musk to forecast at least 550,000 units for 2020 during next week’s earnings webcast and to tout the launch of the Model Y.
While at least eight analysts have boosted their price targets by more than $100 since the year began, consensus is still well below where Tesla’s shares are trading. The average target is $363.92 with just 10 analysts rating the stock a buy, compared with 10 holds and 16 sells.