Tech

Tesla is going to be the next Amazon, says a major shareholder with a $4,000 per share target

Key Points
  • Tesla is experiencing the same kind of skepticism that Amazon faced in its early days, says major Tesla shareholder Cathie Wood.
  • Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of the electric automaker, is going to prove the naysayers wrong, predicts the chief of ARK Invest.
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Tesla is experiencing the same kind of skepticism that e-commerce giant Amazon faced in its early days, and the electric automaker is also going to prove the naysayers wrong, Tesla shareholder Cathie Wood told CNBC on Wednesday.

Wood, ARK Invest's chief whose bull case famously sees Tesla at $4,000 per share in five years, defended Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk's mercurial nature.

"Everybody is beginning to adjust for Musk," she said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "Having been a portfolio manager for many years, I know how to adjust to what different CEOs say given their personalities and their aspirations."

"The same thing was happening with Amazon for years," she added, referring to how Jeff Bezos kept plowing money into the business for years and years with little to show for it. "We were considered crazy, and yet now it seems so obvious. I think the same is going to be true of Tesla."

Amazon now has a stock market value of more than $800 billion. In September, Amazon become the second U.S. company to top a $1 trillion valuation. (Apple was the first in August.)

Tesla's current market value is about $52 billion. Wood's $4,000 a share target, a 1,200 percent increase from Tuesday's $305 close, would yield a nearly $700 billion valuation.

Wood did note her bear case in five years for Tesla stock is around $700 per share. But that's still more than double.

In a podcast Tuesday with Wood and ARK Invest innovation analyst Tasha Keeney, Musk said Tesla should have all the technology in place to operate vehicles without drivers by the end of the year.

But as Wood pointed out on CNBC, Musk acknowledged the need to "bring the regulators along." To do that, she contended that Tesla needs to "produce the data" and "show that this is safe."

Tesla's enhanced autopilot, which includes automatic lane-change and self-parking features, has garnered both positive attention for its sophistication and negative attention for its association with high-profile accidents.

ARK Invest has a significant stake in Tesla, comprising about 8 percent of the money manager's overall holdings.

Wood appeared on CNBC shortly before yet another executive departure at Tesla, which revealed Wednesday that general counsel Dane Butswinkas is leaving after just two months on the job.

Gene Munster, founder of research-driven venture capital firm Loup Ventures, called into CNBC after the announcement, saying, "The biggest challenge that the company has — retaining top talent."

Musk is "a one in a billion type of person" but Tesla still runs like a start-up to its detriment, added Munster, who before starting Loup spent more than two decades as a top tech analyst at Piper Jaffray.

A person familiar with the matter said Butswinkas was not a good cultural fit with Tesla and wanted to return to his family and law practice in Washington, D.C.

Jonathan Chang, Tesla's current vice president of legal, is taking over Butswinkas' position, effective Wednesday.

— CNBC's Robert Ferris, Lora Kolodny, and Eric Rosenbaum contributed to this report