Tesla reaches new milestone as stock tops $100 for the first time

Tesla Motors Inc. hit another milestone Tuesday morning. It's stock was up as much as $8.10 on the Nasdaq and topped $100 a share for the first time ever.

As the trading day progressed, Tesla shares lost a little ground, but the price was still up $7.25 to $104.33 a share.

Analysts said it wasn't just big news for Tesla, but for the beleaguered electric car industry as a whole, which has seen a spate of bankruptcies and bad news in recent months.

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Last month Fisker Automotive failed to make a scheduled federal loan payment and Los Angeles-based Coda Automotive recently filed for bankruptcy protection and put itself up for sale, just to name a few of the industry's troubles.

"Tesla is definitely in a better place," said Ben Schulman, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Ore. "One-hundred dollars a share definitely has some significance in terms of investor psychology."

Schulman added that Tesla has been driven by "the momentum it has gained around the announcements it has been able to make, by meeting milestones," and by generating a sense that "it can become a big, important car company in the future."

Schulman went on to say that Tesla would eventually be held accountable for the need to show improved profitability, "but for now, they are showing that things are on track."

Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors, through a representative, said the company would have no comment on breaking the $100-share-price milestone "at this time."

One of the biggest issues Schulman will be following in the future is how Tesla fares in introducing the Model S in Europe and in China.

Another Wall Street analyst, Brian A. Johnson of Barclays Capital in New York, reminded investors Tuesday that his firm had said that $90 was a reasonable value for Tesla's stock, but that "we weren't going to be surprised if it overshot that."

Johnson said Tesla still has an extremely important mid-decade goal ahead of it. He was referring to the need for Tesla to be able to produce a more affordable car in the $45,000 range -- before rebates -- along the same lines as a BMW 3-series.

A less expensive electric car "is the real future of the company," Johnson said. "It's more of a $60 a share company if it remains a Model S and Model X company. To stay around $100 a share, it will have to produce that more affordable car."

The Model S is a premium electric sedan that begins around $70,000. The Model X is the premium sport utility vehicle the company planes to deliver next year.

The company, led by Chief Executive Elon Musk, has enjoyed several positive events so far this year.

Tesla reported its first quarterly profit in the company's 10-year history, for example, in April.

Last week, Tesla paid off an Energy Department loan that had become a political albatross for two other California green-energy companies -- Fisker Automotive Inc. and Solyndra Inc.

Tesla repaid the federal government $451.8 million from a loan program designed to spur development of alternative-fuel vehicles and renewable energy.


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