Jay Leno loves his Tesla — and believes that the company itself is a good investment. "I like to invest in American ingenuity," the host of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" tells CNBC Make It.
As for Elon Musk, Tesla's embattled founder: "I think he's beaten the odds. I think he's a visionary," Leno says.
"Every time Elon Musk has a problem somewhere, I see these columnists with such glee: 'It's going to fail, I hope it goes in the tube, I hope he's going to ruin it,'" he continues. "I don't understand why that is. It's an American-made vehicle, made with locally-sourced products in America, using American talent."
Tesla also has announced plans for a new factory in Shanghai, China, which is expected to open in the next several months.
Leno did not say whether he owns shares of Tesla. As of Oct. 2, the stock was trading for about $241 per share, a decline from the $294 per share it was trading at about one year ago. When Tesla made its public debut in 2010, shares traded for just $17.
Although Musk has made some missteps, Leno still believes he's on the right track with Tesla and that electric cars represent the future of automobiles. He applauds Musk for leading the charge in a developing industry and for investing in infrastructure that makes driving an electric car — Teslas in particular — more practical, such as the dedicated charging stations the company has built across the country.
Leno also compares Musk to billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates. When Gates first pitched the idea of the personal computer, industry experts didn't think it would catch on. They scoffed at him, as Leno tells it: "'People do not want a computer in their house. Believe me, nobody wants that.'" But Gates and his team persisted, and "you see where we are today."
Musk is pioneering a similar idea with electric cars, Leno says. "I like the visionary aspect of it."
I think he's beaten the odds. I think he's a visionary.Jay Lenohost of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage"
Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money," agrees. "I think [Leno] has a pretty good point. And he is dead right when he says, 'I don't understand why we don't celebrate entrepreneurship more and success in this country,'" Cramer said after Leno made similar comments on his show.
"I suggest you use [Leno's] words, not as a clarion call to go buy stocks, but as a reminder that getting too pessimistic is at odds with reality, and that progress is worth celebrating," he continued.
At the end of the day, "when you have a company where you've got such a rabid fan base — they're willing to put $1,000 to $10,0000 down on a car that hasn't even been built yet — and you get thousands of people doing that, that's an enviable position for any company to be in," Leno says.
CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.
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