Sep 18, 2018 - Energy & Environment

Tesla faces threats from every direction

Elon Musk

Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

In addition to possible competition from Lucid, an electric vehicle startup that will receive more than $1 billion from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund (PIF), Tesla is still trying to repair damage from CEO Elon Musk's self-inflicted wounds.

Why it matters: Tesla is in one of the rockiest stretches of its 15-year history as it seeks to show consistent and well-executed Model 3 production increases and to make good on Musk's promise of imminent profitability.

Driving the news: Just hours after the PIF announced its investment into Lucid, there was news that a British cave diver who played a role in rescuing the Thai boys soccer team is suing Musk over his baseless accusations of pedophilia.

Threat level: The lawsuit underscores how Musk's erratic behavior is a distraction at a critical time. And this is compounded by the continued fallout from the going-private fiasco, which has brought an SEC inquiry over Musk's claim that he had "funding secured."

The intrigue: Via The Washington Post, "The lawsuit could amplify calls for Tesla to install a high-ranking executive or co-captain who could keep Musk’s more self-destructive instincts in check."

The big picture: On the competitive side, don't forget that Tesla is by far the biggest player in the U.S. EV market today and has lots of European growth potential.

  • Nonetheless, the Lucid news shows how the EV field is getting more crowded as startups and legacy automakers — like Audi — plan new models at various price points.

A couple of noteworthy pieces about Tesla's competitive position:

  • Over in Bloomberg's opinion section, Liam Denning writes, "Lucid’s funding is a reminder that Tesla has a target on its back." He notes that despite Tesla's powerful U.S. position, "operational snafus mean it isn’t capitalizing on the current window of opportunity the way it was supposed to."
  • Yes, but: Per MarketWatch: "Tesla Inc. faces no competition at present, and when it does it will be able to hold its own, analysts at Bernstein said in a note Monday. ... What should keep Tesla investors worried? Execution rather than competition, the Bernstein analysts said."

Go deeper: Potential Tesla rival Lucid Motors makes its move.

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