Tesla speeds by Ford in market capitalization

Tesla Motors (TSLA), the electric-car maker, has bolted past Ford (F) to become America’s second-largest automaker as measured by market value. 

The market capitalization for Tesla, founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk only in 2003 and public for less than seven years, was $48.7 billion at the close of trading on Monday. That compares with $45.3 billion for Ford, which introduced its first car, the Model T, 109 years ago. 

Tesla is also gaining quickly on General Motors (GM), whose $51.1 billion market cap makes it the most richly valued U.S. car maker.

Tesla’s stock, which ended its June 29, 2010, initial public offering at $23.89, has since soared more than 1,100 percent and is now knocking on $300. Ford’s stock price has recovered from the wreckage of the financial crisis, when it lost billions of dollars, but has stayed in the slow lane, closing the day at $11.44.

Of course, the companies’ contrasting fortunes on Wall Street don’t reflect their importance on America’s streets. Ford sold more than 2.6 million vehicles last year, its best year in roughly a decade.  

Tesla, which has never turned a profit, sold just over 76,000 vehicles in 2016, shy of Musk’s goal of 80,000.

Tesla also continues to guzzle cash like a Hummer. UBS expects the company to burn through $2.3 billion in 2017. Although Tesla said last month it would raise an additional $1.1 billion, analyst Colin Langan recently said in a research note that “investors may grow weary” of the automaker having to periodically fill up on capital.

Still, Tesla is zipping by Ford in market value amid what most experts believe is a large-scale, if gradual, shift toward electric vehicles. The future of cars, investors seem convinced, is quickly overtaking the past. 

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    Alain Sherter covers business and economic affairs for CBSNews.com.