Tesla shareholders approved a 3-for-1 stock split — is the stock a buy?

Tesla's share price has climbed 77% since its last stock split in August 2020.

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This article was originally published on Fool.com. All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) recently hosted its annual meeting in Texas, where shareholders voted in favor of a 3-for-1 stock split. The split itself has yet to be scheduled, but it will be Tesla's second stock split in just over two years, and many investors see that as a bullish sign.

The pending stock split may have been the headline for some investors, but the most important part of the shareholder meeting was the commentary provided by CEO Elon Musk. He first touted Tesla's profitability, noting that the company had achieved an industry-leading operating margin over the past year. That success stems from a relentless pursuit of efficiency through factory design and automation, and innovations like single-piece casting and low-cost battery cells. And Tesla is set to become even more efficient in the future.

To be clear, splitting a stock has no impact on a company's market cap, a share's intrinsic value, or important fundamentals like profitability. Splits simply make a stock more accessible by lowering the share price. But lowering the price is only necessary after significant share price appreciation, which implies strong execution from a business perspective.

Looking ahead, Musk says Tesla could achieve a production run-rate of 2 million vehicles by the end of this year, and he reiterated the goal of 20 million vehicles by the end of the decade. To make that happen, Tesla plans to build 10 to 12 Gigafactories over time, and the next factory location could be announced later this year.

With that in mind, is it time to buy Tesla stock?

Details from the Tesla shareholder meeting

The recently opened Gigafactory Berlin will reduce logistics costs by localizing the company's European operations, meaning fewer cars will need to be shipped to Europe from the factories in the U.S. and China. Tesla also plans to implement 4680-style battery cells in earnest next year, a technology that will cut battery production costs in half. That's especially impressive because Tesla already pays less to produce battery packs than any other automaker, according to Cairn Energy Research Advisors, and battery packs are the most expensive part of an electric car.

Tesla has an ambitious roadmap

Financially, Tesla is firing on all cylinders. Strong demand and unrivaled efficiency have fueled truly impressive growth over the past year. Trailing-12-month revenue rose 60% from the prior year to $67.2 billion and free cash flow soared 165% to $6.9 billion. But those figures account for a small fraction of what the company could be.

During the shareholder event, Musk noted that Tesla is equal parts software company and hardware company, echoing his belief that full self-driving (FSD) software will eventually be the most important source of profitability for the car business.

On that note, Tesla has a significant edge in FSD technology. Its vehicles have been equipped with autopilot hardware for years, enabling the company to capture more than 35 million miles (and counting) worth of autonomous driving data. That's more than any other automaker, and high-quality data is the cornerstone of artificial intelligence.

Tesla currently trades at 15.1 times sales, an incredibly rich valuation for a car company. But Tesla may look more like a software company a decade down the road, which would make its current valuation quite reasonable. With that in mind, patient investors should consider buying a few shares of this growth stock right now.

With that in mind, Tesla has a robotaxi slated for volume production in 2024, and the company eventually plans to start an autonomous ride-hailing service. That could dramatically change the nature of the business. Robotaxis would likely generate huge sums of recurring revenue at very high margins. In fact, analysts at UBS Investment Bank say the robotaxi market will be worth at least $2 trillion by 2030, while Ark Invest analysts project ride-hailing platforms could generate $2 trillion in profits by 2030.

There is one more piece of the puzzle: the autonomous humanoid robot codenamed Optimus. Musk believes Optimus will ultimately be worth more than the car business, and that its success will make Tesla the most valuable company in the world in time.

Is Tesla's stock a buy?

This article was originally published on Fool.com. All figures quoted in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Trevor Jennewine has positions in Tesla.  The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Tesla. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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