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Tesla, GM, and Two Very Different IPO Expectations

Next week the country's largest automaker and one its smallest will both be scrutinized by Wall Street and investors.

Tesla Model S
Source: Tesla Motors
Tesla Model S

For Tesla it will be the culmination of a long process to become a publicly traded company.

For GM it will be another important step in the long walk backto being publicly traded.

But make no mistake; investors will have two very different sets of expectations for these automakers.

For Tesla, the money from going public will help it expand its very limited line-up of electric vehicles. But the expectations for that growth are limited. For a variety of reasons, most notably the fact the current electric vehicle market is small; Tesla sales are expected to increase gradually.

Still, fans and supporters of the company are sending me e-mails on a regular basis asking me why we don't give Tesla more coverage. The underlying implication is that I don't appreciate what Tesla is all about. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tesla is a niche automaker with aspirations to become a much bigger player. But going from niche to mass market is a big jump, and one filled with numerous challenges. In other words, Tesla has much to prove.

2007 GMC Acadia
Source: automobilemag.com
2007 GMC Acadia

GM also has a lot to prove to Wall Streetbut it's starting in a far different place.

Yes, GM has to convince investors it's a smart investment and that it's sales and revenue growth will be robust.

But GM is about much more than the numbers.

It's about whether or not Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre Jr. has overseen a large enough change in culture.

Just as Tesla fans bombard me with e-mails, critics of GM are just as vocal. The implication: it doesn't matter what the company says, it hasn't changed its stripes. They basically say, "It was a screwed up company before and it's a screwed up company now."

Just as the blind allegiance to Tesla makes me scratch my head, so does the venom filled skepticism of GM.

But that ultimately explains the wildly different expectations behind the IPO’s of these companies.

When Tesla goes public next week, the media will portray the company as a cutting edge firm. When GM goes public later this year the press will question if the company can avoid the same mistakes that have haunted GM over the years.

Two companies. Two very different expectations.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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