The Exchange

Tesla vs. Ford: Who Gets Your Vote?

The Exchange

Ford (F) and Tesla (TSLA) have one primary attribute in common: They both make cars. In most other regards, they're about as much alike as rowboats and accounting software.

Depending on your particular investing inclination, their merits as stocks might be either superior or sorely lacking. One plies us with rugged images of heavy-duty pickups and being "Ford Tough." It pays a dividend, earns money and makes millions of vehicles a year. It does so while maintaining a muted price-to-earnings ratio. The other counters with entrepreneur Elon Musk, plug-ins and emission-fighting. It's barely been profitable, has no quarterly distribution and has made fewer autos in its whole existence than Ford's capable of turning out in a day. Thanks to a recent surge in its stock, it sports an eye-popping multiple, and by virtue of its just-announced addition to the Nasdaq 100, it's gotten yet another lift.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford, with more than a century of history on its side, stands as one of the great symbols of Americana we have, along with the likes of baseball, apple pie and Coca-Cola (KO). Tesla, the Palo Alto, Calif., electric-car designer that came into being a decade ago, largely has been about promise in its short existence, though adoption of its autos is showing signs of taking root.

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Tesla and Ford, by the numbers

Financial data for 2012 except where noted. Source: FactSet, Yahoo Finance, Ford, Tesla.

Clearly, ample differences exist, and the table included here delves into the considerable gulf between the duo's finances. However, the entrenched old-timer and the shiny upstart do have a similarity, aside from car-making, that's relevant at the moment: Both are under consideration for Yahoo Finance's company of the year.

Last weekend, we asked readers to weigh in with the corporation they thought deserved recognition as the best of the thousands of names out there. The first time we handed out the ribbon in 2012, we studied a number of options and chose Gap (GPS). It was controversial, and readers let us know, often in strong terms, that they had better ideas. Costco (COST), for instance, came up in a number of comments posted to the article.

As a result, this year we went to the people ahead of time, offering anyone and everyone a chance for input. And from that sprung the Tesla vs. Ford side exercise. For the company of the year, our aim is to find a firm that excels not just by making money for its shareholders but also by providing outstanding goods or services to customers and by keeping its employees well cared-for. Our starter list included names such as Boeing (BA), Microsoft (MSFT) and yes, Tesla. We gave our site's users a few different ways to let us know what they thought: Vote in our poll, head to the comments section below the article or by way of an email.

The poll produced a clear winner, and that was Tesla. Of 70,462 votes cast, 28,306, or 40% of the total, went to Tesla. (Important to remember is that our list included only a few possibilities, and we're halfway through 2013. The winner won't be announced until late December.)

Enter Ford. Several readers said Ford had to be in the running, considering its price appreciation since January, its dividend and its profitability. Readers are also fond of noting that Ford, even in the dark days of the Great Recession when U.S. automakers looked to be headed for the grave, didn't take government bailout money. It also gets points for recalling the great manufacturing titans of the United States, and there simply aren't as many large makers of physical stuff in America as there used to be.

Ford shares, incidentally, hit a 52-week intraday high on Tuesday, hitting $16.94 in midday trade.

Though the company of the year title is about the current year, not the past five, we've seen some good points from our readers with regard to Ford. It deserves to be in contention, and it will be. The list is living, and it's certainly got room for an innovator that's still cranking along after more than 100 years.

So with that said, review the comparisons and keep the conversation going. Do you favor stability or growth? If you had to choose one stock among these two, which would be your stock of the year (or for future years, for you long-term planners): Tesla or Ford?

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