Update: The day got better as it went on for Tesla Motors.
The company's stock closed at $23.89 on the first day of trading after its IPO, a $6.89 rise from its starting price of $17. In the morning, the stock hovered around $18.20. And it was a horrendous day for the stock market.
Tesla watchers, though, will be anxious to see what happens tomorrow. The company, which brought electric cars back from the endangered species list, raised $226 million in an initial public offering yesterday by selling 13.3 million shares to institutional investors at $17 a share.
The stock hike, and the early sluggish performance, indicates how the company has its fair share of both critics and fans. On one hand, it has popularized electric cars and prompted mainstream auto makers like General Motors to move toward electric. Former GM bigwig Bob Lutz credits Tesla for pushing GM into developing the Volt. When the company appears at car shows, it gets swamped. The navel gazing among investors, analysts and pundits has gone through the roof.
On other hand, building a car company from scratch isn't easy. This is the first IPO by an American car firm since Ford went public in 1956. Tesla has raised over $200 million, but has consistently lost money since it was founded. To date, it has spent more than $250 million. (We reported on the Tesla IPO numbers here. Here's a link to the most recent S-1.) While Tesla has largely had the freeway-legal electric car market to itself for some time, it will soon face competition from Nissan, Ford, Fisker Automotive, GM, Toyota and others. Some of these companies will make plug-in hybrids and others will make all-electrics, but both types of cars will compete against what Tesla will make.
Sales of the Tesla Roadster have also slowed. Last year, Tesla talked about increasing production from 15 cars per week to 30 cars per week. However, Tesla only sold a total of 126 cars in the most recent quarter. That comes to 9.7 cars a week. Tesla assembles cars using a build-to-order methodology, so sales are equivalent to production. The Roadster costs $109,000. The more moderately priced Model S comes out in 2012.
Historical note: DeLorean shipped 6,000 cars in 1981, and 2,000 in 1982 and 1983. DeLorean Motor Company went out of business later that year. Rosen Motors, founded by the same investors who came up with Compaq, took a shot at the auto market, too. You don't see a lot of Rosens on the road these days.