Question of Whether Elon Musk Is Telling the Truth

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Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has disappointed investors repeatedly, based on flawed predictions of car production and sales. His reliability as much as anything else has hurt Tesla’s stature and the value of its shares. The most recent announcement that has been questioned is why Tesla has shut down production of its Model 3.

The Model 3 is Tesla’s offering to the mid-priced car market, with a base of about $35,000. At one point, about 400,000 people had made deposits of $1,000 to get in line for the car. Some of those have lost faith and bought other cars, or perhaps dropped out of the car market entirely.

The new wrinkle to the saga of the Model 3 is a shutdown of its factories that will last several days. Tesla has problems with the automation of its production and assembly operations. Whether those can be corrected in a matter of days remains to be seen. Musk has forecast Tesla will become profitable and cash flow positive faster than most outsiders believed is possible. In a tweet meant to offset comments about Tesla’s finances as reported by The Economist, Musk wrote:

In the meantime, Tesla’s stock is down 7% in the past month, which continues a multimonth sell-off. Musk’s credibility is weak enough that his predictions are no longer accepted by the broader market.

Even if Model 3 production does begin again in a week, Musk has to show that this production can grow at a very rapid rate so that Tesla can fulfill the demand for hundreds of thousands of units. That is, unless his forecast for demand is as shaky as much of what he has said about the company for the past several months.

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