Tesla shares plummeted as much as 9 percent early Friday, just hours after CEO Elon Musk smoked pot and wielded a samurai sword on a livestreamed podcast with comedian Joe Rogan. Musk also fired a flamethrower during the late-night webcast from Los Angeles.
He capped the appearance with a tweet:
Musk’s stunt is the most recent example of increasingly erratic behavior that appears to have scared Tesla investors, and comes amid internal turmoil and production delays at the electric-car company.
This morning, as the East Coast’s financial markets opened, more bad news arrived for Tesla: Dave Morton, the company’s chief accounting officer, was quitting after just a month on the job, CNBC reported.
“Since I joined Tesla on August 6, the level of public attention placed on the company, as well as the pace within the company, have exceeded my expectations,” Morton said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing cited by CNBC. “As a result, this caused me to reconsider my future. I want to be clear that I believe strongly in Tesla, its mission and its future prospects, and I have no disagreements with Tesla's leadership or its financial reporting.”
Within the hour, there was more: Tesla’s head of human resources, Gaby Toledano, had decided not to return to work after taking a leave of absence in August, reports revealed.
“Gaby previously asked to go on leave to spend time with her family, and we support that. The HR team has been sharing her responsibilities,” Tesla said in a statement to TechCrunch when her leave became public.
By midday, Tesla stock had dialed back some losses, and were down around 5 percent on the day, at $266 a share.
Earlier in the week, Musk reignited a firestorm by apparently contacting a BuzzFeed News reporter to re-up his public claims that a British diver, who criticized his design to rescue a pack of stranded Thai teens, was a pedophile. Last Friday, a Wall Street Journal profile reported Musk, out of frustration, was recently seen head-butting the front of a Tesla on an assembly line. “I don’t see how this could hurt me,” the Journal quoted Musk as saying, of vehicles on the slow-speed line. “I want the cars to just keep moving.”
Musk—who this summer infamously tweeted that he would take Tesla private, at $420 a share, and then later stepped back from the claim—has struggled to follow through on his bigger plans: to deliver a mass-market electric car, the Model 3.
While he joked in 2017 that Tesla would enter “production hell” to bring the Model 3 sedan to market, former employees have indeed described this process as hellish, according to reports.
The Model 3 factory has been plagued with chaos, including fires that transformed a paint sprayer into a flame-thrower—and an injury rate that exceeds the industry average, according to a Reveal report.
Cars are being assembled by hand, and that production is further bogged down by a bloated workforce, company insiders have told reporters.
Tesla, which has declared the company plans to produce as many as 1 million Model 3s every year before the end of the decade, has repeatedly missed its production goals.
Some shareholders have even accused Tesla of securities fraud because of these unmet benchmarks, claiming in a lawsuit that company heads misrepresented had its production capacity for Model 3s.
In early August, a major shareholder, investment-fund giant BlackRock, voted to replace Musk as chairman and bring in an independent chief, but the move was defeated.
In June, Tesla referred The Daily Beast to its prior statement on manufacturing concerns, which said it would “take some time to fine tune the line for higher volumes.”