To state that Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) is a polarizing company would be an understatement. Tesla commands a strong following, comprised of avid supporters and passionate critics alike. This was particularly evident in the Model 3, a car that was declared a “lemon” by critics at one point, and a car that has become one of the most popular electric cars in the industry today.
The Model 3 has its own fair share of critics. Last September, high-profile TSLA short Jim Chanos declared that the Model 3 has inherent problems that make it a “lemon.” Seemingly in response to Chanos’ statement, the Model 3 dominated the US luxury auto market in 2018, and with its international rollout this year, the vehicle has also started making an impact in markets such as Norway and China.
TSLA investor @Incentives101, an economist with a background in macro research, stated in a message to Teslarati that Tesla’s vehicles, particularly the Model 3, defied several conventions when it was released. With its unique combination of uncompromising performance, efficiency, and a reasonable price, the Model 3 has become a vehicle that constantly defies critics every step of the way.
The economist explained that consumers purchase vehicles according to preferences that are subject to budget constraints. The buying process then becomes a matter of selecting which car is the best option within the confines of a budget. “Consumers preferences can be easily understood when there is data available i.e when they clearly show what they want. With a car or any good for that matter, consumers are basically solving an optimization problem. Hence, this is why advanced economic models — general equilibrium — are on essence an optimization problem,” the economist wrote.
There are many variables that consumers consider when purchasing a big-ticket item such as a car. Generally, there are no internal combustion vehicles that are as efficient as an electric car, but EVs prior to Teslas usually had worse performance and a higher price, which, in turn, discouraged buyers despite their lower total cost of ownership. Electric cars before the arrival of the original Tesla Roadster and the Model S also introduced a new constraint: range. Under these circumstances, it was not rare to see buyers who valued efficiency and/or are not price-sensitive selecting an EV, and those that valued performance and price opting for a petrol-powered car.
It is these very metrics that the Tesla Model 3 was able to completely address. Tesla refused to compromise with the Model 3, making the electric sedan a vehicle that is incredibly efficient with performance that matches the best that the industry has to offer. What’s remarkable was that Tesla was able to accomplish this while keeping the Model 3’s price reasonable. And this, according to the economist, has resonated with consumers. “When Elon Musk says it’s insane to buy something else other than a Tesla, it’s because it literally is. You can prove it with math,” the economist stated.
The researcher added that this is one of the key reasons why Tesla and the Model 3 have proven incredibly resilient despite the negative narrative surrounding the vehicle and the company as a whole. It is also something that is frequently misunderstood by mainstream analysts and the company’s critics alike. Fortunately for Tesla, consumers by nature are drawn to superior products, and this is steadily becoming more and more pronounced with the Model 3’s international expansion.
“Whenever you read experts saying that Tesla has a 10-year advantage, this is what it means. When the media and Wall Street compare Tesla to other OEMs, when they talk about units of cars vs. other OEMs, it really doesn’t matter. None of them can find an example in history when consumers have behaved as irrationally as what they’re implying. No matter how many hit pieces about Elon Musk or Tesla, how many stock downgrades, how many bear notes, consumers won’t care about it. We already know what consumers care about; it will be impossible to stop it,” the economist wrote.
Tesla stock has so far slipped around 32% this year, following a challenging first quarter and another loss in the second quarter despite record delivery numbers. By contrast, the S&P 500 has risen about 16.7% year to date.
Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.