There are two ways to look at Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) year in 2023. On the one hand, Tesla stock is up 121% year-to-date. On the other hand, the company is getting crushed on the public relations front everywhere Elon Musk turns.
Forget X. He’s got bigger worries with his primary money maker.
Between fighting with unions across Scandinavia and delivering an almost universally hated truck, Tesla is a big target for his critics. And that doesn’t even consider all the silly things he says on his social media platform that make him a pariah for most level-headed people.
He’s become so unhinged only the biggest nut bars on the far right give him serious consideration.
Despite all the bad publicity, Tesla stock seems immune, gaining nearly 9% over the past month. Of course, it helps that the markets were on fire during this time.
Whatever the case may be, it must suck to be a TSLA shareholder right now. Even though you’ve made money in 2023, the Mighty Elon looks ready to crumble into a million little pieces.
Does that make Tesla stock uninvestable? Maybe.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
Whoever said “any PR is good PR” didn’t spend a day in Elon Musk’s shoes.
He’s faced a relentless onslaught of bad press (and lost advertising) from his antisemitic post on X in mid-November. He then apologized for the tweet but then proceeded to curse out advertisers who left the social media platform as a result of his comments.
“‘I don’t want them to advertise,’ he said at the New York Times DealBook Summit in New York. ‘If someone is going to blackmail me with advertising or money go f**k yourself. Go. F**k. Yourself,’ he said. ‘Is that clear? Hey Bob, if you’re in the audience, that’s how I feel’ he added, referring to Disney CEO Bob Iger, who spoke earlier at the summit on Wednesday,” CNN Business reported on Nov. 30.
It’s embarrassing to think that this man once attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, one of Canada’s finest universities. As a Canadian, I’m appalled at the man’s ignorance and arrogance. Queen’s didn’t make him attend etiquette classes as a prerequisite for his commerce studies.
Long-time Tesla shareholders have known for years that Musk was a powder keg waiting to blow. Are the latest incidents the beginning of the end? Or merely the latest flare-ups of a petulant child whom no one holds accountable for his actions.
It’s not a good look.
The Scando Scandal and Tesla Stock
You would think that someone who’s traveled the world many times, like Elon Musk, would know you don’t mess with Scandinavians regarding labor laws. You just don’t. They take workers’ rights almost as seriously as Germans take them.
On Oct. 27, 130 members of the IF Metall union in Sweden staged a walkout from Tesla’s service centers. AP reported, “Local mechanics have also stopped servicing Tesla cars in efforts to support the union action, and deliveries have been refused at Sweden’s four largest ports.”
In an effort to get vehicles into the country, Tesla unwisely decided it would bring them in by truck through Denmark. That irked Danish unionized dockworkers. 3F Transport announced a sympathy strike on Dec. 5. As part of this strike, Tesla vehicles won’t be able to be transported into Sweden.
“We have some labor market agreements in the Nordic region, and you have to comply with them if you want to run a business here,” CNBC cited the comments of JF Transport Chair Jan Villadsen. “Solidarity is the cornerstone of the trade union movement and extends across national borders. Therefore, we are now taking the tools we have and using them to ensure collective agreements and fair working conditions.”
How dumb are Musk and the human resources personnel at Tesla? They had to know taking Tesla business into the Nordic countries would involve playing nice with organized labor. The actions of the United Auto Workers in America have only emboldened them.
Elon, get a collective agreement already. The Nordic countries buy more Teslas per capita than anywhere else on earth.
You Can’t Fit a Square Cybertruck in a Round Garage
Canaccord Genuity analysts surveyed consumers about their interest in buying the Cybertruck. Two-thirds of the respondents said they wouldn’t, based on the pricing and specifications. The respondents were not people with Cybertruck reservations.
“Based on the discussions I’ve had individually, which have been in the hundreds, it’s the look of the vehicle that gets people excited or revolts people,” stated Canaccord analyst George Gianarikas in an interview with Yahoo Finance.
As Yahoo Finance reported, Elon Musk initially said the entry-level Cybertruck would sell for $39,000. It’s nearly $61,000 and won’t be available until 2025.
To Tesla’s credit, the analyst said that the Cybertruck technology is “incredible.” Ultimately, Gianarikas believes Tesla can drive global volume. Maybe not to the extent of the Model 3, but higher than most skeptics predict.
Barry Ritholtz, someone I consider very bright, wrote about Cybertruck in his The Big Picture blog on Dec. 3. I liked his conclusion.
“I cannot believe this ugly, goofy pricey truck will sell well — just the looks alone disqualify it for me. But at the same time, I am unwilling to bet against Elon, who has proven his critics wrong time and again.”
He’s not wrong.
In 2012, I wrote Why America Needs More Teslas, suggesting that “America’s future is stronger with a viable, profitable Tesla in the mix.”
I still feel that way.
On the date of publication, Will Ashworth did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.