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TODD SMITH — Tesla stock races past GM, Ford as most valuable


Tesla Inc. – the sleek, high-end electric carp company – has surpassed General Motors Co. to become America’s most valuable car brand, eclipsing a company whose well being was once viewed as interdependent with the nation’s.

A week after topping Ford Motor Co., Tesla climbed 3.3 percent last week, lifting its market capitalization to $50.9 billion. Tesla ended last Monday valued at about $64 million more than GM. The company is now within $1 billion of Honda Motor Co. and cracking the top-five automakers worldwide.

The turnabout shows the extent to which investors have bought into CEO Elon Musk’s vision that electric vehicles will eventually rule the road. While GM beat Tesla to market with a plug-in Chevrolet Bolt with a price and range similar to what Musk has promised for his Model 3 sedan coming later this year, the more than century-old company has failed to match the enthusiasm drummed up by its much smaller and rarely profitable U.S. peer.

Tesla’s usurping of GM and Ford will undoubtedly spur debate over the relative value of Musk’s company compared with some of the world’s top-selling automakers. GM expects to earn more than $9 billion this year and analysts predict Ford will generate adjusted profit of about $6.3 billion. On that basis, Tesla is expected to lose more than $950 million.

For now, Tesla ranks the sixth-biggest carmaker by market cap, behind Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG, BMW AG and Honda. Although Musk has a long way to go to match Toyota’s $172 billion market cap, Honda is barely ahead at about $52 billion.

Tesla has long been treated like a technology stock with investors betting on its ability to dominate a market for electric cars and energy storage. To those same investors, GM and Ford are headed for a slowdown in car sales that will erode profits. It should be an interesting race in the constantly evolving auto industry.

Amazon’s Day 1 Mantra Resonates with Audiences

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made the idea that it’s always “Day 1” at the company a sort of mantra meant to convey that the company will never stop being a start-up. It’s a message that the CEO not only reinforced in his recent annual letter to shareholders, but it’s the basis of the entire communication. Bezos started broadly, noting that he works in an Amazon building named Day 1, before he hammered his overall message home.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death,” he said. “And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Just saying it’s Day 1, however, does not make it so. After opening with those remarks, and introducing the concept to any shareholders who may not have heard him talk about it before, Bezos then broke down some of the key ways the company keeps it Day 1, even as it has gone from a tiny online bookseller to one of the biggest companies and most-recognizable brands in the world.

Bezos wrote that a company can be centered on many things, including products, technology, business model, and more, but that the best way to protect what he called “Day 1 Vitality,” is to be obsessively focused on customers. He explained that customers can keep you on track because “customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great.”

The customer, he added, always wants something better, and focusing on not just keeping people happy, but delighting them, drives innovation. “No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples,” he wrote.

While Amazon is no longer a start-up working in a garage or a basement pursuing an impossible dream, its CEO has worked to pursue as much of that mentality as possible. What Bezos is doing is guarding against the contentment that success can bring. He’s creating a culture where past results do not guarantee future success so it’s always important to strive, innovate, and be open to change – focusing on delighting the customer.

Google’s ‘Fact Check’ Aims to Thwart Fake News

With Internet firms and media organizations doubling down on efforts to combat “fake news,” Google has revealed that it’s now opening its “Fact Check” tag to publishers globally and is expanding the feature beyond Google news and into search.

First announced last October, “Fact Check” represented the latest in a long line of tags Google has offered to highlight specific kinds of articles, including “In-Depth” (for in-depth news pieces) and “Opinion.”

Using third-party fact-checking services such as Snopes, publishers can add a Schema.org ClaimReview markup on each page they’ve fact-checked, or they can also use the Share the Facts widget. This resulting label identifies articles that contain “facts” that have been checked by news publishers and third-party fact-checking organizations.

At launch, the “Fact Check” feature was only available in Google Search in the U.S. and the U.K., but now is available everywhere Google is available, across all languages, and will also now be visible in Google Search.

“For the first time, when you conduct a search on Google that returns an authoritative result containing fact checks for one or more public claims, you will see that information clearly on the search results page,” according to the company in a blog post. “The snippet will display information on the claim, who made the claim, and the fact check of that particular claim.”

Though fake news is far from a new phenomenon, the problem has received renewed attention in the wake of two key political events in the past year — Brexit and the U.S. presidency. While the extent to which hoaxes influenced the outcome of those political campaigns is up for debate, the ease with which false news can spread through social media and the Internet is a major cause for concern.

This move was announced shortly after Facebook announced it was offering its users tips on how to spot fake news. And back in February, Google and Facebook teamed up to help French newsrooms combat fake news ahead of the presidential election.

Grounded Mic | United PR Blunder Nosedives Brand

The United Airlines fiasco could be the worst PR nightmare in the digital age – after a video of a bloodied passenger being dragged kicking and screaming from a flight went viral around the globe.

Turns out the passenger – David Dao, a 69-year-old physician – suffered a concussion, broken nose and knocked out front teeth that will require reconstructive surgery. So the damage goes much further than reputation. It will most certainly result in a serious lawsuit, and should transform the way the industry treats passengers.

To say the brand is landing in disaster is a colossal understatement. The public relations fallout will continue for days – if not years – and the ripple effect could sink the brand for the foreseeable future.

What’s worse, United CEO Oscar Munoz’ added fuel to the fire by describing the passenger as “disruptive and belligerent” instead of simply issuing an immediately apology, admitting the mistake, how they were going to take care of the victim, embarking on a thorough investigation and the steps the company would take to ensure that something like this never happens again.

Munoz eventually apologized, but it took far too long – and it was really a non-apology, for their overbooking policy and not for the violence and humiliation Dao suffered, or the emotional distress it caused the passengers witnessing this unnecessary event – and the world that saw the video in the aftermath.

The most jaw-dropping irony in this ill-fated fiasco is that Munoz was named communicator of the year at the PR Week Awards just a month ago. I know they wish they had that back!

It’s the latest instance where consumers banded together online to amplify the grievances against a company. Target saw similar backlash regarding its bathroom policy, while Pepsi pulled an ad hours after it was posted and met a barrage of criticism.

For this abhorrent act of violence, United – and its tone-deaf CEO – get a Grounded Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


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