The Motley Fool

Why This Tesla Data Point Could Change the Chinese Auto Industry Forever

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) is world-famous for its sleek electric vehicles (EVs) and it has emerged that its EVs could also be extremely durable.

According to Tesloop, a shuttle service that uses Teslas, every Tesla that the company has used that hasn’t been in a collision is still in service. Many Tesloop Teslas have surpassed 300,000 miles and some are nearing 500,000 miles. Tesloop’s Tesla mileage compares very favourably to conventional cars that normally last around 150,000 miles.

Tesloop’s Tesla maintenance costs are also competitive. In terms of maintenance per mile, Tesloop estimates that its maintenance cost per mile is roughly in line with the average maintenance cost per mile of conventional vehicles of around US$0.06. Going forward, Tesloop believes the Model 3 will have even better maintenance economics.

Data not conclusive yet

It is important to note that what happened is only anecdotal evidence. Tesloop only has seven electric Teslas in service and there aren’t enough data yet to confirm whether electric cars conclusively last longer than conventional vehicles but there is a good chance they do.

Game changer if true

The data would nevertheless be completely revolutionary if EVs lasted much longer than conventional vehicles. Given depreciation is one of the biggest expenses when it comes to renting or owning a car, the true total cost of an EV could be lower than it first appears.

If that is the case, Teslas and other EVs could be economically competitive in the mass market much faster than anticipated and accompanying demand could be higher too.

If EVs outlast conventional combustion engine cars, the auto industry might not sell as many cars over time because consumers will hold on to them longer.

This is bound to be bad news for China’s conventional automakers like Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd (SEHK: 0175) and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd (SEHK: 1114) over the long term. It will require them to pivot to making EVs faster.

The ramifications on the industry

The data won’t affect demand for conventional vehicles in the near term. Because the depreciation cost data aren’t conclusive, no bank will finance leasing EVs at a lower monthly payment, for example. Very few consumers will buy EVs in place of conventional cars because of the Tesloop news. Used EV prices are unlikely to be affected by the news as well.

Because stocks reflect the future earnings, as well as near-term earnings, the Tesloop data could make some automaker stocks potentially more attractive than other stocks, however.

If electric cars last much longer than conventional cars, pure electric companies like BYD Co Ltd (SEHK: 1211) and Tesla will benefit while more conventional car companies will lose out. Car companies that sell more EVs as a percentage of their overall revenue would also benefit more.

Foolish conclusion

According to anecdotal Tesloop data, EVs last longer than conventional vehicles. As a play for investors, it might pay dividends to see how long other EVs last for when the data come out.

If they do indeed last longer then statistically, EVs could be economically competitive faster than expected and pure electric car companies like BYD will almost certainly be the long-term winners.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Hong Kong contributor Jay Yao doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.