It's safe to assume that yesterday was a very busy day for Tesla's new General Counsel Dane Butswinkas, and whoever is tasked with babysitting Elon Musk's Twitter account (as set forth in a court order following the SEC's fraud lawsuit settlement from last year) Musk, to the surprise of few, again shocked Twitter last night when, at about 7PM EST, he took to the social media site and Tweeted that Tesla would make around 500K cars in 2019.
Tesla made 0 cars in 2011, but will make around 500k in 2019— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 20, 2019
This production target immediately caused a stir on Twitter, with many of the company's critics pointing out that Tesla's run rate for the rest of the year would have to be breakneck and record-setting in order to substantiate such production.
Narrator: Tesla has not (and barring a miracle, likely will not) produced 500k cars in 2019. https://t.co/92PcL88I4q— Paul Huettner, CFA (@Paul_M_Huettner) February 20, 2019
So is it me or does Musk’s prediction of 500K cars produced this year mean they almost need to double their best ever weekly production - every single week for the rest of 2019? Am I reading this right? $TSLA— Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) February 20, 2019
Some chose to forego pleasantries and simply call Musk out immediately after the Tweet. Short seller Mark Spiegel, for instance, called the guidance "100% fraudulent" minutes after Musk Tweeted it out:
I'm just amazed that despite the SEC settlement Musk just went on Twitter and gave 100% fraudulent forward guidance. @SF_SEC @SEC_Enforcement @NewYork_SEC , you guys just really don't give a flying fuck, do you?— Mark B. Spiegel (@markbspiegel) February 20, 2019
And almost immediately - but not before the headline was picked up on Bloomberg terminals worldwide - Musk's skeptics were all proven to be right. Roughly four hours later, Elon Musk took to Twitter again to
cover his ass recant his earlier statement, correcting himself by saying that he "meant" to say that deliveries for the year were still estimated to be about 400k.
Meant to say annualized production rate at end of 2019 probably around 500k, ie 10k cars/week. Deliveries for year still estimated to be about 400k.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 20, 2019
But the SNAFU was egregious: the wording of Musk's initial Tweet left little room for such a misinterpretation and it looks embarrassingly clear that Musk simply (once again) lied. Even Bloomberg said that Musk's initial tweet about making 500,000 cars in 2019 was "difficult to gauge, given his proclivity for setting stretch goals" – which was just a diplomatic way to remind readers that Musk is often full of shit.
Musk had previously forecast as many as 400,000 total vehicle deliveries in 2019 and had told an analyst on the company’s latest earnings call to expect sales for the Model 3 to reach as many as 500,000 units in 2019.
And of course, this isn't the first time Musk's Tweets have gotten him in trouble. Back in August of last year, Musk famously tweeted that he had "funding secured" to take the company private at $420 a share. This turned out to be an outright lie and resulted in the SEC suing Musk for fraud. As a result of the settlement, Musk is supposed to be having his Tweets monitored and approved before they go out - but it looks as though this isn’t happening.
Musk, weeks after the settlement, referred to the SEC as the "shortseller enrichment commission" on Twitter.
Given the latest example of Musk Tweeting without any foresight as to the consequences of his actions, it is clear that he meant what he said in a December 2018 interview with 60 Minutes when, about the SEC, he said: "I do not respect them."
Meanwhile, the SEC continues to show it disrepects all regular investors by allowing this kind of manipulative behavior to continue, and we wonder what would have happened if Musk had tweeted this glaring misrepresentation during market hours, sending the stock surging until Musk's subsequent retraction: we wonder just what the SEC's guidelines are when it comes to retractions from CEOs who have recently settled with the agency?