The past month has given Tesla shareholders plenty of reason to worry. Just hours after C.E.O. Elon Musk smoked a blunt on an almost-three-hour-long segment of Joe Rogan’s podcast, news broke that two of the company’s senior executives would step down, one of whom had started just a month prior, the day before Musk sent out a now-infamous tweet announcing he had secured funds to take Tesla private. If possible, the departures—not to mention the constant fear that Musk may tweet himself into yet another controversy—have put investors on even higher alert, necessitating a great deal of patience as they wait to see whether Tesla can do what it has promised: produce electric cars at scale.
At least two firms remain bullish on this mission, erratic C.E.O. notwithstanding. On Monday, Tesla’s stock price surged more than 8 percent after a pair of positive reports from analysts at Baird and Bernstein, who believe in the strength of Tesla’s manufacturing capabilities and favorable market sentiment. “We think the [Tesla] setup in sentiment looks relatively favorable for the next few weeks,” Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi wrote to clients in a note Monday. “We now see the near-term risk-reward for Tesla as relatively skewed to the upside, given the potential for the stock to revert towards the middle of its $270 to $370 range.” In a note titled “Tesla, Inc.: Buy Even with Drama in LBC,” Baird analyst Ben Kallo recounted a tour of Tesla’s Fremont factory, where Musk is said to sleep in order to help hit production deadlines. “We . . . came away incrementally positive,” Kallo wrote, urging clients to buy Tesla stock in spite of the seemingly endless swirl of Musk drama. “Gigafactory 1 creates a significant barrier for competition and manufacturing capability should be a competitive advantage for TSLA over the long term. We believe TSLA’s Gigafactory enables the company to drive down costs through an industrialization of battery pack assembly and economies of scale.”
But not everyone is so willing to overlook the behavior of Musk, who in recent months has, among other things, baselessly asserted and re-asserted that a British cave diver is a pedophile; floated conspiracy theories about journalists and short-sellers; and become the subject of an S.E.C. investigation. Nomura Instinet, a firm formerly bullish on Tesla, downgraded its rating from buy to neutral on Tuesday morning. Tesla is “no longer investable” due to Musk’s behavior, wrote analyst Romit Shah. “We have been one of the most bullish on TSLA shares since initiating coverage last October. . . . We continue to believe that Tesla could be a lot bigger than it is today,” he said. “The issue though is the erratic behavior of C.E.O. Elon Musk. During the second quarter, the switch seemingly flipped. . . . We are worried that this behavior is tainting the Tesla brand, which in terms of value is most important.” Shah enumerates several of Musk’s public outbursts—his emotional New York Times interview; an outburst earlier this year during which he berated analysts for asking “boring” questions; haranguing short-sellers; the aforementioned “cave-diver accusation”; and his Rogan podcast appearance. All of these were factors that “likely contributed to the onslaught of executive departures in recent months,” Shah wrote. “Notwithstanding improving fundamentals, we believe that Tesla is in need of better leadership (an about-face) and are moving to the sidelines until we see what happens with management.”