Market Strategy for Hi-Tech Cars

Who doesn’t like being acknowledged when they do something nice? A simple nod when you hold the elevator or perhaps a wave when you let someone go in front of you in traffic… these are easy gestures that put positive karma into the world and should be done more often.

Of course, when the gift or courtesy is a bit larger, like helping a friend move or assisting a neighbor with a house repair, then the acknowledgment should also move up a notch. Pizza and beer come to mind.

Following this logic even farther, if the gift is really big then clearly the recipient should be going all out to thank the giver.

Which leads to my question: “Where’s the thank you?!”

Zero Emission Vehicles

During the third quarter, automaker Tesla sold 7,785 of their very cool and very eco-friendly vehicles. While the cars aren’t completely emission free (it takes some energy to create the electricity that fuels the cars, and then there’s that nasty business of dealing with used batteries), they are far and away more efficient than traditional vehicles that run on petroleum products.

That’s nice, but apparently it’s not nice enough to turn a profit. Tesla lost $74.6 million during the quarter, which works out to roughly $9,600 per car they sold. It might not seem like it, but Tesla has a lot of people to thank for this… not for the loss, but for the fact that the loss wasn’t twice that amount per car!

Any car manufacturer that sells vehicles in California must comply with their emission standards. One of their regulations is that a certain percentage of every carmaker’s sales be zero emission vehicles (ZEV’s).

By selling ZEV’s, carmakers earn emission credits. If they have enough credits compared with their regular car sales, then they’ve met their obligation. If they haven’t, then they could be fined up to $5,000 for each lacking credit. That can become very expensive.

The problem is that many companies that make cars either don’t have true ZEVs or the ones they do have are poor sellers compared to their regular fleet. Other than the Nissan Leaf , most carmakers aren’t having much luck with their electric vehicles, which means they are woefully short in meeting their emission credit goals.

Tesla, however, sells only ZEV’s, so it generates many more credits than it needs… and a market is born! Tesla sells its excess emission credits to other manufacturers. The rate of sales depends on a number of factors, like how many cars Tesla has sold as well as the number of ZEV’s other manufacturers have been able to sell.

Last quarter, Tesla sold $93 million of emission credits to other carmakers. That works out to just under $12,000 per Tesla vehicle sold. Without this bump in revenue, Tesla’s loss would have been $167.6 million, or roughly $21,600 per car.

For everyone in California who bought a car other than a Tesla last quarter, there’s a good chance that Tesla owes you a very, very big thank you! Of course, this trickles down to Tesla owners as well.

Without the bump in revenue from Honda, Toyota, Chevrolet and Ford buyers among others, chances are the cost of a Tesla would be a touch more than it is today.

So if you’re driving a spiffy new version of one of those other brands, the next time you see a Tesla, if the driver doesn’t say thank you, feel free to cut them off in traffic for being ungrateful.
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Rodney

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Categories: Innovation

About Author

Rodney Johnson works closely with Harry Dent to study how people spend their money as they go through predictable stages of life, how that spending drives our economy and how you can use this information to invest successfully in any market. Rodney began his career in financial services on Wall Street in the 1980s with Thomson McKinnon and then Prudential Securities. He started working on projects with Harry in the mid-1990s. He’s a regular guest on several radio programs such as America’s Wealth Management, Savvy Investor Radio, and has been featured on CNBC, Fox News and Fox Business’s “America’s Nightly Scorecard, where he discusses economic trends ranging from the price of oil to the direction of the U.S. economy. He holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University.