Tesla Motors is on a big roll. Electric vehicle doubters take note: One of the best stock picks you could possibly have made recently is Tesla, which has hit $73 a share and was over $69 as I write this. It launched at $17 in 2010.

It’s not hard to see why Tesla is soaring: Consumer Reports, no easy grader, just gave the Model S a 99 out of 100 grade. That’s an A+ in any marking book.

And this was just after a very upbeat May 8 earnings statement, in which Tesla said it made a first-quarter $15 million profit, the first in its history. The company had sales of $562 million, produced 5,000 vehicles and “recognized 4,900 cars as revenue,” whatever that means. It’s churning out the Model S at a rate of 400 cars or more per week. Tesla has a higher gross profit margin (17 percent) than Ford (11 percent). The company is currently selling more electric cars than anyone else. From the Detroit Free Press:

Tesla ended the quarter as the top seller of rechargeable autos in North America. Its Model S deliveries exceeded the 4,421 sales of GM’s Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid and 3,695 deliveries of Nissan’s Leaf.
tesla showroom

One reason that Tesla is exceeding its sales quotas is an increasing number of stores around the world (see above), an increase in foreign orders, and the fact that the deal got better. I was recently on the second of two media calls on Tesla’s improved “financing product” (it’s not exactly a lease), and the company sweetened the deal. Initially, CEO Elon Musk said he would personally guarantee any price discrepancy if the value of his Model S fell below the residual of the Mercedes S-Class after three years (currently at 43 percent of the purchase). Now he’s pegging the value to a smorgasbord of BMW, Lexus, Audi and Mercedes brands, and the percentage is likely to be 50 percent of what the customer paid. “From 43 percent to 50 percent is a pretty big jump,” Musk said.

I told Musk that my associate minister is now convinced she can buy a Model S. Discretion prevents me from asking her how much she makes, but she’s number two at an inner-city church — she’s no hedge fund manager. Her net effective monthly out of pocket cost, after the $10,000 initial payment and taking into account the likely cost of gas she didn’t buy, is $580 a month, Tesla said. “This is way better than we first proposed,” Musk said. Do you think you can swing it, Eleanor?

“We see quite a meaningful increase in demand” as a result of the financing, Musk said on the media call. “As a car purchase, our car is kind of expensive, but as a finance purchase it becomes increasingly affordable.” He said that the car was now accessible to 10 percent of the American population, which he said is 10 million households, “quite a lot of people.”

The majority of cars are still being sold at the top of the range, including an 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack and a $72,400 base price (plus 300-mile range). If you want the performance version, it’s $87,400. Not a cheap date, but we’re talking about a real object of desire for an increasing number of people around the world.

Here's the Consumer Reports rave on video:

Related on MNN: Read the interview with Tesla CEO Elon Musk

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