Tesla hasn’t historically been bad at capital discipline; over the course of a year, it has a fraction of what a GM or Ford or Toyota might spend in a quarter, so it has to watch every penny. But CEO Elon Musk and his team are now in triple-secret double-down mode — I know that doesn’t make any sense, but Tesla future investment requirement are almost comically ambitious — and from the perspective of leadership, it would be dumb to let the stock slip before heading back to the markets to raise money. Musk wants to produce 500,000 vehicles annually by 2018, and getting there ain’t gonna be cheap.
The bottom line is that Tesla sees its stock price as a means to an end. The company’s own investment thesis, such as it is, asks investors to take a long-term view: Tesla will be a major player in the future of transportation. Whatever happens with the stock price day-to-day is a distraction. All that matters is that Tesla shares be considered valuable when it’s time to create a new cash pile.
Tesla is right on the edge of crossing a river when it comes to how it spends money. As it gets bigger and has to manage more lines of business, capital efficiency will become vastly more important. But for now, Tesla’s capital exists to be spent, and that’s clearly freaking out the analysts who cover the company.