Analysts are warning tech entrepreneur Elon Musk Wall Street will only take his antics and unwillingness to answer questions so long before insiders and investors eventually jump off the Tesla bandwagon.
Wall Street is getting weary of Musk’s chronic inability to explain how his company plans on turning a profit, a pair of analysts told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Their warnings come after the Tesla CEO trolled a slew of analysts during a May 3 earnings call in which he ignored questions about the company’s beleaguered financial situation.
“It doesn’t destroy his brand. But it does defeat levels of trust with investors,” Eric Schiffer, CEO of private equity firm The Patriarch Organization, told TheDCNF. Investors need to be reassured Musk’s electric vehicle company has a plan to rake in profits sometime before the end of the 21st century, he added.
Musk might be trying to delay what could be the inevitable — bankruptcy — Schiffer, who specializes in brand management, also noted. “There is a radioactive component to it,” he said, adding the billionaire entrepreneur does appear to share the same qualities with another wealthy world-beater.
“There is a bit of a Trump-like model that he is running,” Schiffer said, referring to Musk’s apparent willingness to use Wall Street analysts as foils. Musk might behave like President Donald Trump during press junkets, Schiffer continued, but “he’s no Donald Trump.” His company eventually has to make money if it wants to stay afloat.
The earnings call left some scratching their heads and others flabbergasted. Veteran analyst at Morgan Stanley, Adam Jonas, for instance, called the earnings call “the most unusual call” he’d ever experienced.
His off-script musings could hurt Tesla’s ability to obtain cash from capital markets, Jonas told Bloomberg shortly after the call concluded. The Tesla CEO appeared to grow increasingly irritated with what he called “boneheaded” questions from media members who participated in the call.
“Excuse me. Next. Boring, bonehead questions are not cool. Next?” He said after an analyst from Bernstein lobbed a volley of questions at Deepak Ahuja, Tesla’s chief financial officer, about capital expenditures. Musk then shut down another analyst for asking what he determined silly and “dry” questions.
Vilas Capital Management founder John Thompson shared much of Schiffer’s criticisms.
“Analysts on the call were simply trying to walk through how you get to the end of the road,” Thompson told TheDCNF. “They were trying to call BS on him, and he got pissed. In my opinion, these questions were soft-ball question,” he said of those who were on the call.
Tesla initially planned on producing 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week by the end of 2017, but that number was quickly revised as the inexpensive vehicle’s production began faltering. The Silicon Valley company placed a temporary stop on Model 3 production in April after several hiccups in production.
Musk is currently making only around 975 Model 3s a week — well short of the 2,500-unit rate target by the end of this quarter.
Tesla managed to build a mere 260 Model 3s between July and September of 2017. That number is well below the 1,500 Tesla promised before the end of the fourth quarter of said year. Total orders for the wallet-friendly vehicle tumbled from a high of 518,000 to 455,000.
Production on the highly touted vehicle was expected to expand from 100 cars in August to 1,500 in September then plateau to 20,000 per month in December 2017. Musk promised to eventually produce 20,000 cars per month.
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