Electric Carmakers Are in a Stock Market Bubble

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.

Arrival Ltd., a U.K.-based electric-bus and van startup that’s poised to go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, is valued at almost $16 billion after the SPAC’s shares more than doubled in a week. It won’t start producing vehicles until late next year.(1)

The electric revolution is real and the shift away from combustion engines is accelerating. From a climate perspective, it’s great that investors are allocating capital like this. Still, valuations look mighty bubbly. The potential for disappointment is massive, particularly for the newest crop of EV makers that are yet to generate meaningful revenue.

Like all financial bubbles, this one is driven by dreams of enormous wealth. Elon Musk has overtaken Bill Gates as the world’s second-richest person. Scottish investment manager Baillie Gifford & Co., an early Musk backer, recently cashed out billions of dollars in…

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