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Chris Bryant

Electric Carmakers Are in a Stock Market Bubble

The Tesla-led automotive revolution is real but valuations have become divorced from the messy reality of the industry.

Unplugged.

Unplugged.

Photographer: SOPA Images/LightRocket

The chief executive officer of Volkswagen AG, Herbert Diess, has predicted that within five to 10 years the world’s most valuable company will be a carmaker. Given how much investors have been bidding up the shares of Tesla Inc. and other electric vehicle stocks, it might happen sooner.

Tesla’s market value soared past $540 billion this week — equivalent to 250 times its expected earnings this year — meaning it’s now the world’s 10th-most valuable listed business, according to Bloomberg data. A trio of New York-listed Chinese electric-vehicle groups — Nio Inc., XPeng Inc. and Li Auto Inc. — are worth a combined $154 billion. None of the three is profitable and together they delivered fewer than 30,000 vehicles during the most recent quarter, just over 1% of Volkswagen’s car sales volumes.