Tesla Is Valued At 8x BMW. Make Sense?

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) stock has soared by over 4x this year and Tesla’s market cap stands at about $400 billion, compared to about $50 billion for the BMW Group. Tesla also trades at a trailing P/S multiple that is almost 40x BMWs.  This comes despite the fact that BMW’s revenues are about 5x Tesla’s, and its deliveries are about 6x Tesla’s. Does this make sense? Not entirely, but there are a couple of factors that support a valuation premium for Tesla, including its significantly higher growth, expanding margins, and growing software sales. In this analysis, we compare Tesla’s financial and operating metrics with the automotive business of the BMW Group. We break-up our analysis into revenue metrics, margins, and cost metrics. See our complete analysis BMW And Tesla: A Detailed Comparison for more details. Parts of the analysis are summarized below.

Tesla’s Deliveries A Fraction OF BMW, But Its Clearly Gaining Ground In the U.S. 

Tesla’s Total Deliveries Stood At 370K Units In 2019, Compared To About 2.5 Million Units For The BMW Group. Tesla’s deliveries have risen from about 32k units in 2014 to 368k units in 2019, a growth rate of over 60% per year, driven partly by the launch of the Model 3 in 2017. BMW, on the other hand, has seen its total deliveries (including Mini and Rolls Royce) grow from 2.1 million units to 2.5 million, a growth rate of under 4%. Tesla has considerable room to scale up, given that it still largely caters to the U.S. market with just 4 models in its lineup, including the Model Y that was launched earlier this year. In comparison, BMW has over 10 model lines, with multiple variants. Tesla already sells more Model 3 vehicles in the United States than all of BMW’s luxury sedans, so this could be an indicator of its potential as it scales up globally, with new factories. Moreover, Tesla also plans to offer increasingly affordable vehicles going forward.

Tesla’s ASPs have declined from $95k in 2014 to $57k in 2019 and it’s likely that the number will fall further as the sales mix of Model 3 and Model Y rises. BMW’s ASPs have declined from $47k in 2014 to $43k in 2019. Tesla’s Automotive Revenues have grown from $3 billion in 2014 to $21  billion in 2019. In comparison, BMW’s revenues grew from $100 billion to $109 billion.

How Do Tesla’s Cost & Margin Metrics Compare With BMW

Tesla’s Automotive Gross margins were roughly comparable with BMW’s Gross margins at about 21% in 2019. Note that we are adding back R&D expenses to BMW’s reported gross margins, as the company considers R&D a part of direct costs. Tesla is also making solid progress in reducing its operating expenses. Selling, General and Administrative (SG&A) expenses as % of revenues stood at 11% in 2019, down from 19% in 2014, as the company streamlined its retail operations. The metric for BMW has remained in the 8% to 9% range over the same period. On the R&D front, Tesla has significantly scaled back its expenses, with the metric falling from 15% in 2014 to 5% in 2019, bringing them roughly in line with BMW’s. As Tesla continues to double down on self-driving software sales, cuts battery costs, and builds a greater scale with new factories and models, it’s very likely that its margins will scale up further, eclipsing BMWs.

While Tesla is certainly selling more cars and doing so more efficiently, this alone doesn’t justify its massive valuation premium over BMW. Investors are taking a long-term view with Tesla, betting that the company’s innovative tech and the vision of CEO Elon Musk could help it play a big role in the future of the transportation industry. The stock makes sense at current valuations only if you believe in  Tesla’s massive self-driving leadership and that growing software-as-a-service sales will translate into sizable profits down the road.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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