Elon Musk is tweeting again, this time about plans to replace the commercial trucking industry with electric trucks built by Tesla. According to Musk, the full scope of his vision for making a play in the production of large commercial trucks will be delivered in an announcement in September.
Immediately, Alex Potter, a stock market analyst from Piper Jaffray, made news by placing a downgrade on both Cummins and Paccar, two of the largest American manufacturers of engines and trucks. He claims that Tesla entering the market will put pressure on these mainline truck manufacturers.
Well, not to discount the wonders of everything Musk and Tesla, it is probably fair to take Mr. Potter’s recommendation with a pinch of salt. A brief perusal of Potter’s position on Tipranks shows him at the unenviable rank of 4,157 out of 4,557 analysts surveyed. A ranking which shows that you could do worse than take advice from Mr. Potter, but not much worse. In fact, savvy investors are probably going long on Cummins and Paccar as you read this.
As for Tesla disrupting or pricking the industrial truck market, it won’t be any time soon. Challenges facing electric passenger vehicles, such as charging stations, charge time, battery life, will all be even more difficult to overcome when real horsepower is essential. Commercial truck production can’t be solved by going lighter and smaller, it has to be solved with muscle. And trucks need to travel thousands of miles without a break, which is a big challenge for the electric car industry to overcome. It will be more difficult and complex with the much larger batteries and the much higher demand for traveling long distances without breaks.
Musk may be a visionary, but he is spread thin and his perpetual hype and spin is beginning to wear with investors on the street. At this point Tesla has built some lovely cars, but they haven’t produced a profit on any venture. Musk has demonstrated an ability to burn through billions and claim success, while manufacturing a tiny fraction of the number of cars that companies like Ford, Toyota and Hyundai produce.
And that’s fine. But Tesla’s valuation, at one-half of the market cap of giant Ford, is a pretty good indication of a hype machine in full swing, rather than a solid long-term investment opportunity.