Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA), has done several things that could push down the electric car company’s stock. It is only down, however, less than 2% this year. Tesla’s promise must outweigh Musk’s behavior. What else would account for the stock’s activity?
Musk has tweeted that he could take Tesla private, an action that has drawn U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission scrutiny. He likely never had the money to do so, although he hinted otherwise. He has acted bizarrely on an earnings call. He sleeps under a desk at one of Tesla’s factories from time to time. Similar behavior by most CEOs would have cost them their jobs. Musk has kept his. This is due to a chummy board and his personal brand’s value (which has probably been damaged) to Tesla. Musk is a megawatt celebrity. His visibility has helped make the company among the most visible in the world, even though its revenue is relatively small.
Why has the stock held its ground despite forces that might drag its down? The short interest in Tesla is about 25% of the float. That means some very clever investors are willing to bet large sums of money it will fail. Some of the analysts who cover the stock are less optimistic than they were a year ago. Tesla has missed some of its earnings and production targets.
Despite Tesla’s problems, it remains the world’s premier electric car company. The demand for its vehicles is not only high in the United States, but Tesla has done, or expects to do, very well in China and parts of Europe. Tesla continues to be considered the lead innovator in the sector. Its cars also tend to get rave reviews from industry and consumer researchers.
And Tesla has launched a car aimed at the large middle market of buyers. The Model 3 will have a base price as low as $35,000. With added features, which many of the model’s versions have, that prices rockets up quickly to over $40,000. Nevertheless, the Model 3 is expected to sell hundreds or thousands of units within the next two years. This does depend on factory output and Tesla’s financial situation.
Tesla has enough momentum in its sector that Musk’s behavior is not enough to pull the stock down.