Op-Ed: Tesla faces a unique challenge–a growing number of investors who no longer believe in Elon Musk

Daniel Oberhaus, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Tesla’s (TSLA:NASDAQProxy Statement 2024 revealed that the company is asking shareholders to approve two big proposals at the upcoming annual meeting of stockholders in June: Tesla’s reincorporation to Texas and the ratification of Musk’s 2018 compensation plan, which was rescinded by a Delaware judge in late January. Considering the sentiments of the Tesla community online today, it would appear that the electric vehicle maker will be facing a rather unique situation in June — a growing group of shareholders who have grown to dislike Elon Musk. 

Elon Musk has never really behaved like a conventional CEO, not for Tesla or any company that he leads or has led in the past. Tesla will also never have 100% of his time, as he is also the CEO of SpaceX, and he is involved with his other companies like Neuralink, The Boring Company, xAI, and X, formerly Twitter. For years, Musk and the Tesla community seemed to have maintained an agreement that such a setup was agreeable. But with Tesla stock down 40% year-to-date, sentiments surrounding Musk have become quite negative. 

Negative Sentiments

These sentiments became quite evident after Tesla announced that it was looking to ratify Musk’s 2018 compensation package, and they became even more prominent when the company went live with https://www.supportteslavalue.com/, a dedicated website that encourages shareholders to support the company’s proposals. Such sentiments were quite notable in the r/TeslaMotors subreddit, a group with over 2.7 million members. When a user posted a link to https://www.supportteslavalue.com/, the vast majority of the comments claimed that they would be voting against the ratification of Musk’s 2018 compensation package. 

Support Tesla!
byu/cicada57 inteslamotors

The same is true on social media platform X. Musk has become more polarizing than ever as he continued to express his opinions on political and societal matters, and this has resulted in a growing number of Tesla community members seemingly getting disillusioned with the CEO. This was quite evident with Leo KoGuan, a prominent retail shareholder who claims to hold over 27 million TSLA shares. While KoGuan has been very supportive of Musk in the past, his recent posts showed a notable disdain for the CEO. “I fell in love with the crafted image, I was naĩve,” KoGuan wrote. He also noted that if Musk only spends more time at Tesla, the company would be so much better off.

A look at the overall sentiments of alleged TSLA shareholders that seem inclined to vote against Musk’s 2018 compensation plan suggests that investors are most frustrated about the company’s stock price, which has never really recovered since Musk sold part of his personal shares when he purchased Twitter. Many are also notably frustrated at Musk’s polarizing and controversial posts on X, some of which seem to be targeting the very demographic that initially supported Tesla and ensured its survival in its early years. The volume of Musk’s posts about topics like DEI, the US border, and politics has also given the impression that he is simply not focused on Tesla anymore. 

Elon Musk: Strength to Liability

Overall, the situation could be summarized as follows: In 2018, most TSLA shareholders seemed secure in the belief that Musk was the company’s biggest strength. In 2024, a growing number of shareholders seem to believe that Musk has become Tesla’s biggest liability. So prominent are these sentiments today that some have seemingly adopted the idea that Musk is now weighing Tesla down and driving it to the ground, so the EV maker’s best chance of survival is to kick Musk out of Tesla and replace him with a more level-headed and focused CEO — someone like Tim Cook, who is arguably not as innovative as Steve Jobs, but is the leader that brought Apple to a $2.55 trillion valuation. 

As noted by Tesla community members on social media, TSLA stock, after accounting for the stock splits that the company has implemented over the years, was trading at less than $20 per share when Musk’s 2018 compensation package was initially approved. Thus, even in its current state, it should be noted that TSLA shares are still up over 800%. While Tesla has fallen significantly from its peak, when the company was worth over a trillion dollars, it is still more than eight times more valuable than it was when investors approved Musk’s compensation plan. 

In a way, voting against the ratification of Musk’s 2018 compensation plan will probably ensure that Tesla becomes a competent, predictable carmaker — and that’s not so bad at all. Tesla will still be one of the few American automotive startups that survived and thrived in a very long time. That’s a whole lot of accomplishments that can never be taken away from the company, no matter what happens moving forward. Voting in support of the company’s proposals would likely mean that Tesla, under Musk’s leadership, will continue to wager its future on risky innovations that hold world-changing potential, like AI and humanoid robots, all while Musk is focused on multiple, high-profile projects like SpaceX’s Starship program.

History will ultimately determine which of these choices will be the better option for Tesla. 

Don’t hesitate to contact us with news tips. Just send a message to simon@teslarati.com to give us a heads up.

Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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