Mike Jackson, CEO of the largest auto dealership franchise AutoNation, commented about Tesla on Tuesday ahead of the upcoming New York Auto Show, calling the Silicon Valley darling a ‘great Ponzi scheme’. The often outspoken CEO shared his thoughts about Tesla’s recent meteoric rise in market value, which surpassed General Motors to become the most valuable U.S. automaker.
“Clearly General Motors is undervalued and Tesla is overvalued,” said Jackson from the J.D. Power Automotive Forum in New York City. “Anybody can see that.” The AutoNation CEO also took a swipe at Tesla’s financial position, saying that selling cars at a loss is “not very exciting”, but appreciates Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s ability to create a brand that has generated an unprecedented cult-like following.
“You have to tip your hat that he’s created a brand that has a strong cult-like following.” said Jackson. Adding, “[Tesla] has a lot of competition coming. Giving away vehicles at below what it cost you to make them is not very exciting.” However, “Selling vehicles at a profit would be very impressive,” said Jackson as reported by USA Today.
Despite Tesla being largely unprofitable, as the company burns through billions of dollars in order to execute on its vision of the future, the electric automaker and energy company is starting to win over Wall Street because of its long term positive outlook. Shares of Tesla soared to new highs yesterday when leading research firm Piper Jaffray raised its price target on Tesla by 65% to $368. Analyst Alexander Potter noted in his report that Tesla burns through cash at rate that “better-established companies would likely be crucified for”. However, the firm also makes it clear that investors are investing into something that simply can’t be replicated by competitors.
“More so than any stock we’ve covered, Tesla engenders optimism, freedom, defiance, and a host of other emotions that, in our view, other companies cannot replicate,” Potter said in his report. “As they scramble to catch up, we think Tesla’s competitors only make themselves appear more desperate.”
Amid ongoing rivalries between dealer franchises and Tesla which sells its vehicles directly to consumers, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the CEO of one of the nation’s largest auto retailers would question Tesla’s rising success. Tesla is “either one of the great Ponzi schemes of all time or it’s gonna work out,” says Jackson.