Elon Musk’s attempt to juggle three companies while alienating Tesla consumers with his social-media antics is not currently a roaring success if the electric-car company’s stock price is any indication.
Tesla’s market slide, ongoing for months, has accelerated at the end of 2022. The company is down about 12 percent over the last week of trading, 34 percent in the last month, and 70 percent for the year, making it the second-worst performing stock in the S&P 500 with one day left of trading in 2022. (It did rise about 8 percent on Thursday after days of declines.) Musk’s personal wealth has plummeted by about $115 billion over the last 12 months, per CNBC, and he is no longer the world’s richest person.
As CNN Business notes, Musk’s Twitter saga is far from the only reason for Tesla’s slide. Among other, likely more important factors: The company’s production capacity in China has been slowed by that country’s capricious COVID policies, and the Federal Reserve’s attempt to tame inflation with interest-rate hikes has cooled consumer demand generally. The stock market is down as a whole this year, as many companies retrench ahead of gloomy economic forecasts.
But Tesla stands out from the pack in a negative way, and the CEO’s recent behavior is likely one reason why. Since he took over Twitter, Musk’s enthusiasm for conspiracy theories and right-wing politics have taken center stage, as he has implied that the attack on Paul Pelosi was a gay tryst gone wrong, expressed enthusiasm for prosecuting Anthony Fauci, and urged his followers to vote Republican — all of it anathema to Tesla’s core American customer base of wealthy liberals.
Musk’s descent into quackery, along with his callous disregard for much of Twitter’s former workforce, can’t be helping already slow consumer demand in the U.S. In recent months, the company has resorted to offering unheard-of discounts on two of its models.
Probably more importantly for Tesla investors, Musk appears to be expending more of his energy conversing with right-wing trolls than running his car company — the one he sold billions of dollars of shares in to finance the Twitter purchase. His inattention could hardly come at a worse time, as other major car manufacturers finally crank out the kind of desirable electric cars that were once Tesla’s near-exclusive domain. Musk’s penchant for making big promises that don’t come to fruition — like a long-delayed cybertruck — is harder to justify when Tesla is far from the only game in town.
Despite all the headwinds, Musk professes to be unconcerned — standard operating procedure for someone who has made a career out of defying expectations. In a letter to Tesla employees on Wednesday, he told them not to be “bothered by stock market craziness” and that Tesla is still on track to be the most valuable company on the planet.