Elon Musk and Tesla shareholders are at a crossroads.
Hit by a bruising price war, intensifying competition in North America, Europe and China, and Musk’s demands for billions in new Tesla shares, the electric vehicle’s stock has plunged this year, lopping roughly $130 billion off its market capitalization.
Shares are down roughly 8 percent on Thursday in premarket trading after Wednesday’s lackluster year-end results.
But Musk sees reason for optimism. He asked investors to look beyond 2024, predicting a “major growth wave” fueled by a low-cost Tesla model that will be built partly in Austin, Texas, and Mexico.
Wall Street doesn’t appear to be buying the message. The latest stock fall comes after Tesla reported that fourth-quarter profit nearly doubled to $7.9 billion — largely thanks to a one-time tax break. The company also declined to give detailed full-year guidance, but said it expected sales growth to be “notably slower.”
“Tesla is signaling that the days of 50 percent or even 30 percent to 40 percent growth year-over-year is not going to happen in 2024,” Seth Goldstein, a Morningstar Research analyst, told Bloomberg. “At a certain point, you can’t cut prices anymore.”
Musk doubled down on his call for more shares. He stunned investors this month when he said that if the board didn’t increase his stake, to 25 percent from 13 percent, he would consider developing new artificial intelligence products “outside of Tesla.” That spooked even Tesla bulls who feared that granting Musk so many shares would dilute their holdings. Failing to do so could risk Musk hiving off the A.I. work that had driven investor enthusiasm in the stock.