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Stanphyl Ends 2016 Up Up 31% And Confident Of Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) Collapse

Stanphyl Capital’s Mark Spiegel presentation on  Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) excerpted from the hedge fund’s December 2016 letter:

Mark Spiegel’s Stanphyl Capital  had a killer year up close to 31% NET YTD – see below for an excerpt on Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) from their November shareholder letter.  But first… although he is known as Elon Musk’s number one enemy, Mr. Spiegel makes most of his money from killer small cap picks. His under the radar small caps which could pop just based on this piece (if we discussed it publicly) were profiled in ValueWalk’s 2nd edition of our quarterly premium newsletter. See some details followed by the Stanphyl section on Tesla Motors.

For December 2016 the fund was down approximately 2.9% net of all fees and expenses. By way of comparison, the S&P 500 was up approximately 2.0% while the Russell 2000 was up approximately 2.8%. For the full year 2016 the fund was up approximately 30.8% net while the S&P 500 was up approximately 11.9% and the Russell 2000 was up approximately 21.3%. Since inception on June 1, 2011 the fund is up approximately 126.9% net while the S&P 500 is up approximately 87.7% and the Russell 2000 is up approximately 73.2%. (The S&P and Russell performances are based on their “Total Returns” indices which include reinvested dividends.) As always, investors will receive the fund’s exact performance figures from its outside administrator within a week or two.

Despite December’s increase in Tesla’s stock price, it sure wasn’t a propitious month for subsidy queen Elon Musk as President-elect Trump appointed a short seller’s dream team to various key cabinet posts, naming friends of plants Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary, Rick Perry as Energy Secretary and the CEO of ExxonMobil (!!!) as Secretary of State. Although I’m sure if the government subsidy were big enough Musk would happily modify the Model S to run on a 392 hemi four-barrel, we remain short shares of Tesla Motors Inc. (ticker: TSLA; short basis: $225.51; December close: $213.69) as

I continue to believe that it’s the market’s biggest single-company stock bubble.

Rarely does a month go by without a blatant new deception from Elon Musk, and December was no exception. Have a look at these Tweets…

Now, remember when Tesla’s Autopilot killed a guy and Musk berated Fortune’s fine reporter Carol

Loomis’ questioning of its safety by telling her to “do the bloody math”? Putting aside the fact that Musk’s math in that incident was bloody bogus, let’s do some math ourselves regarding the claim in the above Tweets about solar-powered 350kw charging stations…

In sunny areas a highly efficient solar array generates an average of around 5 watts per square foot net over eight hours a day (assuming 9 watts peak and considerably less non-peak). This means that to run just one 350kw charger using a combination of “live” solar generation and battery storage for eight hours a day would take 350,000/5= 70,000 square feet of solar cells and to store enough power to run it the other 16 hours a day you’d need to triple that, to 210,000 square feet. Thus, if this mythical Musk

Supercharger station had just four chargers it would require approximately 840,000 square feet = 19 acres (!) of solar cells! How about THAT bloody math, Elon?

I recently asked a smart, well known hedge fund manager how so many TSLA shareholders can justify investing in a company run by a guy as deceptive as Musk (in addition to the above, see slides 136-152 from my November Robin Hood conference presentation and the long list of links on page 8 of this letter) and he provided a fascinating answer: they think Musk is the next Steve Jobs and that Jobs “acted the same way.” I think that’s a very credible theory about a belief grounded in sheer stupidity, as while even Jobs’ admirers say he could be a real jerk behind the scenes, unlike Musk I don’t recall him misleading

Apple investors by publicly spouting easily fact-checked lies about his company! (As an aside, do Tesla longs think Musk is more honest about the things they can’t fact check? That’s right, Mr. Fidelity Portfolio Manager—no one will have possibly been able to have “seen it coming.”) Also unlike Musk, Jobs strived to create massive profits while Musk could figure out how to lose money running a whorehouse in a sex- addiction clinic. Good luck investing in someone who prioritizes his phony version of “saving the world” from the window of a Gulfstream G650 over creating a business that’s actually profitable.

Another fun Tesla tidbit in December came from fanboy blog InsideEVs, which proudly reported without irony that Tesla’s Fremont factory now contains 6200 employees, which is nearly as many as the 6800 who worked there back when GM ran the factory. But here’s the thing: GM built over 400,000 cars a year with those employees while Tesla is building approximately 80,000! Perhaps now all those duped journalists reporting their own version of “fake news” regarding Tesla’s factory being unusually

automated will publish their corrections (I won’t hold my breath!) or at the very least run a quick YouTube search to learn how un-unique Tesla’s robots are.

There wasn’t much other Tesla-specific news in December (just Panasonic installing some solar cell equipment in Tesla’s Buffalo factory in exchange for a guaranteed purchase commitment), but the CES show in January should be interesting and not particularly good for Tesla. In addition to the expected introduction of several new electric cars there, Delphi and Mobileye will demonstrate an autonomous driving system available “off the shelf” within three years to any car maker (most of whom will soon have their own autonomous systems anyway), thereby further turning this capability into a commodity and rendering meaningless (except for potential liability lawsuits) whatever “head start” Tesla’s current reckless system might provide. Speaking of liability lawsuits, in October Musk held a press conference introducing a new hardware suite for Tesla cars that he claimed would eventually provide fully autonomous coast-to-coast driving (something the aforementioned Delphi demonstrated in early 2015). However, according to industry experts it’s unsafe to even attempt to provide full autonomy without LIDAR (laser scanners) and Tesla’s new hardware doesn’t have it. Of course, this isn’t stopping Tesla from trying to charge $3000 up front for “potential future capability” or from showing a strategically cut (and hence potentially highly misleading) video of those alleged “capabilities.” I have no doubt the lawyers are salivating!

Meanwhile, happily for us back in November Tesla shareholders approved the merger with the financial boat anchor known as SolarCity, accompanied by its nearly $3.5 billion of debt and $2 billion a year in negative free cash flow (although I expect that number to lessen as it switches from a “lease” to a “sales” model). There seems to be some question as to how much of that debt is recourse to Tesla– the merger proxy says none of it is, but yet there was this Tweet from Elon Musk:


Regardless, this was a blatant bailout by Tesla shareholders of Musk’s 22 million otherwise soon-to-be worthless SolarCity shares, but as they voted to approve it and I’m glad they did, it’s a real kumbaya moment for all of us.

Of course, the “bright shiny object” now for Tesla shareholders is the “$35,000 mass-market Model 3”; I thus urge you to read my recent Seeking Alpha article as to why that will never happen, reinforced by a Bloomberg article about how much money GM is losing on the Bolt despite having a battery cost equivalent to Tesla’s and vastly great manufacturing scale.

Meanwhile, despite Musk’s blatant denial in the Q3 conference call, Tesla discounting continues unabated. Here’s a link to a great web site showing just a small portion of the heavily discounted brand new inventory cars Tesla has available, many of which offer thousands of dollars off the sticker price in


addition to the $1000 discount referral program. In fact this December 26th screenshot showed discounts of as much as $11,200 (plus the $1000 referral credit) even on cars equipped with the latest version of



(Keep in mind that every new Tesla comes listed with 50 “delivery miles” so the fact that these cars average just 100 miles on top of that indicates that Tesla is building them expressly to have an excuse to heavily discount them, as opposed to its former claim of only discounting inventory cars by $1 a mile and 1% a month.)

Although Musk proclaims otherwise, simple math implies that Tesla will need to do yet another massive capital raise to finish the Gigafactory (which, by the way, will have no meaningful cost advantage over scores of competing factories and may be just “dumb”) and to get the Model 3 into production (not to mention to replenish the cash drain from the massive financial sinkhole created by buying SolarCity), even though it raised nearly $2 billion in 2014 explicitly to build the factory and $1.7 billion in May 2016 explicitly to put the Model 3 into production. As Tesla entered Q4 with around $3 billion in cash and $1.1 billion in projected Q4 capex, and on the Q3 conference call Musk said capex will be “higher in 2017 than 2016 for sure,” I’m guessing—even with the big slug of potential additional debt Tesla added in December and the sale of some SolarCity receivables— that the company will be completely “cash free” by next fall and will thus look to raise money at least a quarter ahead of that.

Meanwhile, GM’s new Bolt EV (being delivered to customers now and Motor Trend’s 2017 “Car of the Year”) has an EPA-rated range of 238 miles, handily topping the 210-miles of the cheapest Tesla Model S (which is over $30,000 pricier) while matching its 94 cubic feet of interior passenger space and posting a zippy 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds. Seeing as studies show that 15% of Tesla buyers come from a Prius and many others come from other inexpensive “eco-favorable” cars, I expect the Bolt to grab back a significant number of them—what I call the “stretch buyers” who paid up for a Tesla because they wanted an electric car with over 200 miles of range; those people can instead now choose the much less expensive/easier to park Bolt over the current Model S, probably at least two years before Tesla’s so-called “mass market” Model 3 can be in true mass production (late 2018 vs Tesla’s claim of 2017) at a base price (as noted in my linked article earlier in this letter) I estimate will have to be at least $13,000 higher than the Bolt. In addition to Motor Trend’s praise of the Bolt, “Car & Driver” wrote:

With the arrival of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, the electric car reaches a major milestone, one that also secures its future: a move toward mass appeal. It no longer matters if your in-laws show up at the airport unannounced. The Bolt has enough range

(That last line might indicate that even car reviewers pay more attention to Tesla’s financial statements than do its shareholders!)

Of course, the Bolt is just the first of an onslaught of competition Tesla will soon confront in all facets of its business. First, here are the competing cars…

Introducing the All-Electric 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

All-Electric Audi Q6 e-tron Coming in 2018 with 300+ Miles of Range Audi A9 e-tron production confirmed

Daimler confirms EQ subbrand – 10 new electric cars by 2025 Daimler to invest $11 billion in electric vehicles

All-electric Porsche Mission E confirmed for production

Porsche Is Reportedly Planning a Smaller Version of the Mission E Sedan Porsche Cayenne Coupe: meet the hunkered-down, electric SUV

VW’s new electric car will cost less, and go farther than, Tesla’s Model 3 Volkswagen to launch electric MPV microbus

Jaguar Unveils All-Electric I-Pace SUV

Jaguar Land Rover says half of its new cars will have electric option by 2020 BMW to produce electrified versions of entire luxury lineup

Nissan confirms next-gen Leaf will have over 200-mile range Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi to share electric car platform Ford to spend $4.5 billion on 13 new electrified vehicles Volvo Linking Up With LG Electronics To Develop Electric Cars 200-Mile Hyundai IONIQ Electric Coming In 2018

Hyundai announces 4 new all-electric cars by 2020

Hyundai Motor plans luxury electric car under Genesis brand

Honda Will Re-Enter the EV Race in 2017 with an All-Electric Version of Its Clarity Toyota, in about-face, may mass-produce long-range electric cars

Mazda CEO Says Electric Cars Coming in 2019 Lucid Motors unveils its 400-mile range luxury EV

Aston Martin gears up to take high road on electric drive Bentley Mulsanne to swap its V8 for electric power Maserati executive confirms electric Alfieri

Peugeot and Citroen Promise 450 km (280 Miles) Electric Vehicle in 2019 New 2017 Renault ZOE ZE 40: 400 km Range*, 41 kWh Battery

Mitsubishi To Launch New All-Electric and PHEV Compact SUV Between 2017-2020 Subaru to introduce all-electric crossover by 2021

Dyson car: former Aston Martin product development director joins Dyson 2017 Karma Revero (nee Fisker) launches with updates

Karma Owner Building 50,000 Cars/Year Electric Car Factory in China Borgward plans 10,000-unit electric SUV plant in Germany

Skoda electric SUV under development

NextEV plans Tesla Model X fighter for U.S. in late ’18 or early ’19

Daimler strengthens dedication to emission-free mobility with new DENZA 400km EV for China Daimler to produce electric cars for EQ subbrand in China

Volkswagen in Talks to Make Electric Cars in China

Tesla Is Playing Catch-Up With China’s BYD in Nearly Every Business Category

Tencent-Backed Company Aims to Launch Smart-Electric Cars Before 2020 Chery Breaks Ground on $240M EV Factory in China

New Chinese Car Brand: WM Motors To Bring EVs To The Masses

Here are the competing car batteries…

LG Chem targets electric car battery sales of $6.3 billion in 2020 Samsung SDI to build $358 million car battery plant in Hungary by 2018 SK Innovation to quadruple capacity of EV batteries

Daimler subsidiary ACCUMOTIVE begins construction of second Li-ion factory Panasonic to build (non-Tesla) green-car battery plant in China

China’s BYD takes aim at Tesla in battery factory race Sony enters the EV battery business

Chinese EV battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology charges for global market BMW Shows Off Its Battery And Electric Motor Production Facility


Volkswagen will invest $3.7 billion in battery cell & electric drive plant

Jaguar holds talks with Ford and BMW over building a giant battery factory Toyota works to develop advanced electric-car battery

How Bosch is developing the battery of the future

Kreisel Seeks to Overtake Tesla With Souped-Up Plug-In Cars Dyson Commits $1.4 Billion for Solid-State Battery Development Wanxiang is playing to win, even if it takes generations

Rimac is going to mass produce batteries and electric motors for OEMs

Here are the competing storage batteries…













GS Yuasa


SOLARWATT Daimler Schneider Electric sonnenBatterie Kokam


Nissan – Eaton Tesvolt Aquion Energy Kreisel Leclanche

Lockheed Martin Alevo

EOS Energy Storage

Energy Storage Systems Inc. UniEnergy Technologies electrIQ


Sunverge Stem

Green Charge Networks Imergy Power Exergonix


Fluidic Energy

Primus Power

Simpliphi Power redT Energy Storage

And by the time the lithium ion Gigafactory is completed, will it not only be an oversized white elephant but obsolete, as “Argonne Settles On Two Most Promising Successors To Lithium Ion Battery”?

Here are the competing autonomous vehicles…

(Note: at least two Tesla autopilot-related deaths have been reported, as well as at least five additional autopilot-related crashes in which most of the Teslas were totaled although the passengers survived.)

2017 Audi A8 to feature first fully autonomous tech

Mercedes testing world’s most advanced autonomous cars (text in German)

Volvo plans to offer fully self-driving car to luxury buyers

Volvo, Uber to Jointly Develop Autonomous Sport-Utility Vehicles

BMW to build vehicle connectivity and automated driving campus in Unterschleissheim

GM Expands Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Engineering to Approximately 1000 Positions GM and Lyft aim to make autonomous taxis available in early 2019

Ford expands fleet of self-driving test cars

Toyota Bets Big On Autonomous Tech, Swallows Millimeter Radar Maker Hyundai Shows Off Fully Autonomous Version Of The IONIQ

Delphi, Mobileye see self-driving production by 2019 Alphabet Creating Stand-Alone Self-Driving Car Business

Honda & Alphabet’s Waymo Enter Technical Collaboration on Fully Self-driving Automobiles Google Self-Driving Car Project and FCA Announce First-of-its-kind Collaboration

Nissan debuts ProPILOT auto drive system

Second Generation Automated Acura RLX Development Vehicle Revealed in California Chery, Baidu test fleet of 10 self-driving EVs

Lucid Chooses Mobileye as Partner for Autonomous Vehicle Technology Continental AG Working on Self-Driving Partnerships

Apple Drops Hints About Autonomous-Vehicle Project BlackBerry to open autonomous vehicle hub

Samsung says autonomous driving key to its car components push Panasonic to make push into autonomous tech

Mitsubishi Electric Adapts Missile Guidance Systems for Self-Driving Cars California gives Nvidia the go-ahead to test self-driving cars on public roads France rolls out ‘world’s first’ driverless buses

Local Motors Debuts First Self-driving Vehicle to Tap the Power of IBM Watson

And here are the competing charging stations…

BMW, Daimler, Ford, VW, Audi & Porsche JV for 350kw Charging On Major Highways in Europe White House announces new EV corridors to accelerate deployment of charging stations Volkswagen pays $2 billion to fund clean cars infrastructure

EVgo Installing First 350 kW Ultra Fast Public Charging Station In The US

BMW and Volkswagen Take on Tesla Motors With a New U.S. Fast-Charging Network Fastned Readies For 150 kW, 300 kW Charging

Switzerland getting new fast-charging network: 150kW chargers at 100 sites

Yet despite all that deep-pocketed competition, perhaps you want to buy shares of Tesla because you believe in its management team. Really???

Who You Gonna Believe? Elon Musk’s Words Or Your Own Lying Eyes?

How Tesla and Elon Musk Exaggeraged Safety Claims About Autopilot and Cars When Is Enough Enough With Elon Musk?

Musk Talked Merger With SolarCity CEO Before Tesla Stock Sale Debunking The Tesla Mythology

Tesla Continues To Mislead Consumers

Tesla Misses The Point With Fortune Autopilot Story

Tesla Timeline Shows Musk’s Morality Is Highly Convenient

Tesla Scares Customers With Worthless NDAs, The Daily Kanban Talks To Lawyers Tesla: Contrary To The Official Story, Elon Musk Is Selling To Keep Cash

Tesla: O, What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice To Deceive I Put 20 Refundable Deposits On The Tesla Model 3

Tesla’s Financial Shenanigans Tesla: A Failure To Communicate

Tesla Is Stiffing Nevada On The GigaFactory Can You Really Trust Tesla?

Elon Musk Appears To Have Misled Investors On Tesla’s Most Recent Conference Call

Understanding Tesla’s Potemkin Swap Station

Tesla’s Amazing Powerwall Reservations

I’ve argued for a while that the “Tesla love/loyalty” one reads about on the forums (“Even though my

Tesla is in the shop a lot I’ll never go back to a regular car!”) and in the latest Consumer Reports owner survey is really “EV loyalty/EV love”—in other words, many people like the instant torque and quietness of their EV drivetrains, not necessarily the fact that their frequently repaired cars happen to come from

Tesla equipped with the interior “luxury level” of a 1990s Acura. A September survey from UBS seemed to support this:


So when the Germans (Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW) roll out their 300-mile luxury EVs in 2018/2019 they’ll capture a lot of Tesla owners who love Tesla’s driving experience but not its reliability or interior, especially as fear grows that Tesla’s cash bleed means it may not be around to honor the eight-year drivetrain warranty that those “reliability issues” force it to provide.

Meanwhile Tesla’s rollout of its new Model X has been a quality-plagued disaster, with Consumer Reports in November giving it an overall rating of 59 on a scale of 100—tied for worst among 16 competing vehicles in its class. In addition to its quality problems, the X’s multi-thousand-dollar premium to a comparable Model S sedan is a huge sales-limiting factor, as nearly all the luxury competition prices its premium SUVs considerably less expensively than its premium sedans. For instance, the most basic “X” with no options and a warm-weather range of just 237 miles (well under 200 miles in cold weather) starts at $88,800 with only five seats standard. By comparison, the Porsche Cayenne starts at $59,600, the Audi Q7 at $49,000, the BMW X5 at $55,500, the Volvo XC-90 at $45,750, the Jaguar F-Pace at just $41,990 and the seven seat Mercedes GLS at $68,700, and all those vehicles average more than twice the range of the Tesla with far more flexible refueling capabilities for long trips.

Also, the heretofore revered Model S is now on the Consumer Reports “Used Cars to Avoid” list with “much worse than average reliability” (although the new models have improved to “average”). On the bright side

though, Tesla owners get to make lots of new friends at their local service centers, assuming they don’t mind the month-long wait times for an appointment.

So in summary, Tesla is losing a massive amount of money even before it faces a huge onslaught of competition, and things will only get worse once it does. Thus this cash-burning Musk vanity project is worth vastly less than its approximately $40 billion enterprise value and—thanks to that debt—may eventually be worth “zero.”