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Riding Hopes For Model 3, Tesla Overtakes Ford In Market Value

Emirati men check a Tesla vehicle during a ceremony in Dubai in February. The electric -vehicle maker recently announced the opening of a new Gulf headquarters in the United Arab Emirates.

Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET

In some respects, the current competition between Ford and the electric-vehicle company Tesla is no competition at all.

Bloomberg lays out some of the stark facts:

  • In the past five years, Ford has reported net income of about $26 billion. Tesla lost $2.3 billion.
  • The same period saw Ford generate $151.8 billion in revenue, compared with Tesla's $7 billion.
  • Tesla sold about 40,700 vehicles last year — roughly the same number of F-series trucks Ford delivers every three weeks.

But a quick gander at the stock market this week tells an entirely different story.

By the end of trading Monday, Elon Musk's Silicon Valley automaker — which also works in energy storage — had passed the venerable Detroit titan in market value, riding a 7 percent share-value surge to a market capitalization of about $48.7 billion. Meanwhile, a 1.7 percent dip brought the house that Henry Ford built to a value of $45.6 billion.

By late morning Tuesday, Tesla had added to its market capitalization, coming within striking distance of General Motors, the most valuable U.S. automaker.

Of course, this is the stock market so the situation could change quickly — but still, the question bears asking: How did Tesla scale such lofty heights despite the apparent discrepancies in scale?

That could be a function of two factors.

In the more immediate sense, Tesla released figures Sunday that demonstrated it had delivered more than 25,000 vehicles in the first three months of 2017 — which, as The New York Times notes, represents a 69 percent leap from the same period last year. At the same time, monthly sales figures for several Detroit automakers "showed them struggling to meet last month's performance," according to the Times.

Perhaps more importantly, many investors' hopes are riding on the approach of the Model 3, Tesla's $35,000 compact sedan it aims to launch this summer. The new, more affordable model would mark a departure for the automaker, which to this point has been selling only luxury models that — at their cheapest — cost $68,000, Bloomberg reports.

"The only thing that matters for the stock this year is Model 3," Joseph Fath, a fund manager at T. Rowe Price, Tesla's fourth-largest shareholder, tells Bloomberg.

Musk's ambitions for the new model rival investors' expectations. He has said the goal is to make 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018 — which, if you're keeping track at home, would mean more than 40,000 a month, or roughly 15,000 more vehicles than it delivered in the entire first quarter.

Still, Musk doesn't appear to be too concerned about that daunting prospect at the moment. The magnate — who also happens to own a space company, too — took to Twitter on Monday to send an unsubtle message to doubters who have been short-selling Tesla, or effectively betting it would fail: "Stormy weather in Shortville ..."

Fitting that he should end the tweet in ellipses, for this saga is sure to be continued.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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