BY TIM KNIGHT at Slope of Hope
Although I’m a dyed-in-the-wool chartist, I appreciate when people make thoughtful conjectures about what’s going to happen to a company, a financial instrument, or a country based on their broad observations. Remember, “speculate” is derived from the Latin verb speculare, which means to observe. Successful investors notice things.
As such, I’d like to share something I’ve noticed. It first started back on July 29th, when I got an email from Elon Musk (errr, not personally, but it a spammy kind of way). It started off like this:
It went on to say, at some length, that for every person I’d refer that bought a Tesla Model S, they’d get $1,000 off, and I would likewise get $1,000 off my next car. Not a bad deal! But it did strike me as a little surprising to get an email like this, since Tesla really never seemed to be hurting for interest in their cars before. And besides, Musk is reported to have a net worth of something like $13 billion, so why is he stooping to use his name on an all-text email solicitation?
Then, about a week later, this showed up:
In this email, it described the same offer, but it kindly included a spammy email that I could send on my own to my friends. So now, not only was I getting spammed, but I was being provided with ready-to-use junk mail I could use as well.
My puzzlement reached critical mass when my Tesla app was updated. I noticed a button I had never seen before:
Ummm……….so precious screen real estate is being used on a button called From Elon? (And, to be clear, this isn’t temporary; it apparently is there forever). I clicked it, and, yep, there was something resembling the original email. However, there was something extra: I could click on a Find Friends button, and voila:
It was ready to go through all the contacts in my iPhone so I could start spamming them quickly and easily!
Now this is all getting to be a bit much. In March of 2013, I wrote an over-the-top review of the Tesla S, praising it to the skies (I did not have the intelligence to actually buy a bunch of TSLA, however, which was a mere $38 at the time). Back then, every touchpoint of the Tesla experience was amazing.
For instance, if you needed to bring your car in for service, you could get an appointment immediately, and they would give you another Tesla S to use for whatever time they needed your car. I was accustomed to having to rent a piece-of-crap vehicle from Enterprise whenever I had cars serviced in the past. At Tesla, they’d just hand you a new $100,000 car for free to enjoy while your own car was being fixed. Sweet!
Since then, though, things have started to slip……….badly. First off, Tesla remains a one product company. They sell just one thing – the Model S – and even though they keep coming up with goofy versions of it (with ‘Insane” mode……….and “Ludicrous” mode………) they have yet to ship their long-promised Model X, a fact I griped about in this post.
Tesla has taken pains to say they are finally going to release it in “Q3″ – – and now they are saying that they will ship their first Model X on September 30th. Look, guys, I know that shipping a single car on the very last day of the quarter strictly qualifies as Q3, but this is a bit disingenuous. I’m also predicting, based on all the public whining Musk has done about what a bitch the gull-wing doors have been to get working, that a bunch of the early X’s shipped have problems. We’ll see.
In addition, service doesn’t seem what it used to be. Things are starting to go wrong with my Model S, the worst of which is that one of the fancy automatically-receding door handles no longer comes out. In other words, it’s totally unusable. It feels a little strange having a $100,000 car and explaining to a passenger that they have to walk around to the other side, since the goddamned handle doesn’t function. I might as well have a 1974 AMC Pacer.
So, when calling for a service appointment in July, I was told they could see me…………inSeptember. Umm, gosh, I’m glad it’s not something serious.
Perhaps these festering problems explain why TSLA peaked eleven months ago, losing one third of its entire value afterward, and then (oddly) clamoring back to roughly its prior high. It is weakening again now, and based on my first-hand experiences, I’m starting to think this is a trend that is going to persist.
Don’t forget that only two years ago, Tesla was (secretly) approaching bankruptcy and was close to a deal with Google to sell itself. Tesla has been propped up with government loans and “green” credits of various kinds for all these years, and let’s face it, with gas prices collapsing, the appeal of an expensive all-electric car is diminishing.
The Model S is still the best car I’ve ever owned, and I’d still recommend it. But if Tesla doesn’t start to get its act together with respect to delivering new products and getting their service back into its former tip-top shape, I suspect the symbol TSLA will make a long, tortured trip back down to the double digits.