Tim Rue/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesTesla Motors’ soon-to-be produced Model X crossover vehicle. the first few will roll off the assembly line late this year. Electric cars have been a hard sell for most manufacturers, but Tesla Motors (TSLA) is doing just fine at the high end of the market. The premium maker of plug-in sedans is ramping up production of its Model S car, and it’s not having any problem finding buyers with deep pockets.
Let’s go over a few things that you may not know about electric car usage in general — and Tesla in particular.
1. Atlanta is the hottest major city in terms of electric vehicle sales growth.
It may be far removed from the green-culture hotbed of California, but the largest sequential jump in electric vehicle sales this past quarter came in Atlanta, according to recharging station operator ChargePoint.
ChargePoint’s list of the regions with the largest percentage growth of electric vehicles sales during the fourth quarter of 2013 finds Atlanta on top with a 52 percent gain over the quarter before. That translates into more than 3,000 electric cars sold over three months in Georgia’s largest city. And while Los Angeles added 5,000 electric vehicles during the period, it’s clearly still a major acceleration for the southern hub.
2. There are half a dozen states with less than a dozen Teslas each.
Tesla’s now selling thousands of Model S sedans a month, but some states have yet to warm up to the stylish cars. According to auto industry tracker Edmunds.com, there are six states where residents have bought 10 or fewer Model S vehicles since its introduction in 2012 through the end of last year: Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, West Virginia, Idaho, and Mississippi.
These aren’t very densely populated states: Mississippi’s the most populous with 3 million residents. Alaskan’s reluctance to give Tesla a try may be tied to fears about how an electric vehicle would perform in the cold, though Tesla made a strong effort to put those fears to rest earlier this year by staging the first official coast-to-coast Tesla trek using only its growing network of complimentary charging stations — in the heart of winter.
3. Tesla’s making a $5 billion bet on growth
A shortage of the lithium-ion batteries needed to propel electric cars temporarily tripped up Tesla last year, but it’s doing something about that. Tesla plans to shell out as much as $5 billion for a huge factory that will make more than enough Tesla batteries to satisfy its widening demand.
As Tesla prepares to introduce the Model X crossover later this year and a more economical Tesla in a couple of years, it has good reason to load up on the key components. The factory won’t be cheap, but it will give Tesla a leg up on the competition as it takes on the more mainstream market.
4. This year’s Model X is just the beginning
Tesla is sticking to its goal of getting the Model X on the market later this year. It’s a crossover SUV with three rows of seating and falcon wings that open upward instead of outward for those sitting in the second row. But only the first few vehicles are expected to trickle off the assembly line during the fourth quarter. Production won’t be in full swing until the second quarter of 2015, but by then Tesla expects to be making twice as many cars as it is now across all of its product lines.
It won’t end there. CEO Elon Musk has been talking up a more economical vehicle that will be priced in line with what rival electric cars are fetching. We have yet to see what sacrifices will have to be made to get those cars to market at roughly half the price of the Model S, but it clearly could be the vehicle that turns Tesla into a mainstream player. Musk has suggested that the Model E as many are calling it could hit the streets as early as 2016.
Revving up on Wall Street
Tesla has made electric cars cool, and it’s doing so with explosive profitability. It surprised the market by earning $0.78 a share last year, but analysts now see Tesla posting net income of $1.90 a share this year and more than doubling again next year to $3.92 a share.
It’s not just Tesla’s stock that’s been moving in the right direction these days.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.