TSLAQ (pronounced "Tesla Q") is a loose, international[1] collective of largely anonymous short-sellers,[2] skeptics, and researchers who openly criticize Tesla, Inc. and its CEO, Elon Musk.[3] The group primarily organizes on Twitter, often using the $TSLAQ cashtag, and Reddit to coordinate efforts and share news, opinions, and analysis about the company and its stock.[4] Edward Niedermeyer, in his book Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors (2019), establishes the catalyst for the formation of TSLAQ in July 2018 to be the doxxing by a Twitter user of Lawrence Fossi, a Seeking Alpha writer and Tesla short seller who uses the pseudonym Montana Skeptic.[5]

TSLAQ
Nickname$TSLAQ, TESLAQ
Named afterTesla ticker symbol + "Q" which is NASDAQ notation for bankruptcy
FormationJuly 24, 2018; 4 years ago (July 24, 2018)
TypeAnti-Tesla, networked advocacy, fraud deterrence, pro-shorting
OriginsTwitter
Region
International
Key people
Lawrence Fossi, Randeep Hothi, Martin Tripp, @Paul91701736, @TESLAcharts
Websitehttps://www.tslaq.org

TSLAQ highlights what it claims to be a variety of dangerous, deceptive, unlawful and fraudulent business practices by Tesla. On occasion, TSLAQ has exchanged hostilities with Tesla fans over social media. An online group, TSLAQ's activities at times include taking aerial photography and visiting parking lots used by Tesla for storage.

MotivationsEdit

According to the Los Angeles Times in 2019, TSLAQ members believe Tesla is a fraudulent company and its stock would eventually crash, while also specifically claiming that Tesla was experiencing a "demand cliff" for its products and has had to regularly distort its sales numbers.[6] Their self-reported main goal as of 2019 was to "change the mind of Tesla stock bulls and the media."[6] Tesla was the most shorted stock in the U.S. in December 2020, with over $34.5 billion in shorted share value at its peak.[7] Business Insider described TSLAQ member activity in 2019 as consisting of "exchang[ing] research, news articles, and sometimes outlandish conspiracy theories about the company" and that members were "betting on the company's death and have found much success in irritating the billionaire executive."[8]

Criticizing Tesla's practicesEdit

Tesla under Musk's leadership has been involved in a number of lawsuits and controversies,[9] including investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice.[10] News of such investigations and subsequent litigation, the alleged fraud and insider-dealing in connection with Tesla's acquisition of SolarCity in 2016, are major organizing points for TSLAQ members.[11] Notably, Elon Musk revealed a "solar roof" shingle in October 2016 that later turned out to be fake, as originally speculated by TESLAcharts.[11][12] The group has also raised questions about accounting irregularities related to warranty reserves, accounts receivables, and regulatory credits.[13]

TSLAQ has highlighted a California judge's ruling in 2019 that Tesla had violated labor laws by unfairly disciplining employees who engaged in pro-union activity.[14][15][16] According to TSLAQ member Paul91701736, Tesla has frequently failed to achieve overly optimistic production projections.[6] Following Musk's statement that "Tesla does not need to ever raise another funding round" in 2012,[17] TSLAQ and others argue Tesla has had a total negative cash flow of over $8 billion and subsequently raised over $18 billion in additional debt and equity via subsidies and other means.[18] Musk also planned to build a fully automated factory for mass production of the Tesla Model 3,[19] describing the factory as an "unstoppable alien dreadnought ... [the] machine that builds the machine."[20] However, footage produced by a TSLAQ member of activity at the Fremont factory revealed that cars were largely being built by hand.[21]

Hothi defamation lawsuitEdit

In April 2019, Tesla filed a lawsuit and a request for a restraining order against TSLAQ member Randeep Hothi, also known as skabooshka.[22] The allegations spanned two episodes:

  1. In February 2019, Mr. Hothi was found sitting in his car in the Tesla Fremont Factory parking lot. Security ordered him to leave at which point Tesla alleged he exited at high speed and nearly struck an employee.[23]
  2. In a separate instance in April 2019, Mr. Hothi spotted a Tesla on the highway fitted with numerous camera systems and personnel in the car and he proceeded to film the vehicle believing it to be demonstrating and filming Tesla's Autopilot capabilities. Tesla alleged that he drove erratically and dangerously.[24][25]

In response to the allegations, TSLAQ members led by Lawrence Fossi ran a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $100,000 for Hothi's defense fund. Tesla eventually dropped the lawsuit and the request for a temporary restraining order against Hothi after they refused to produce footage from within the test car on the grounds it "risked the safety and privacy of the employees involved in the case".[26] After reviewing the surveillance camera footage of Tesla parking lot from the February date in question, Fremont police declined to press charges.[27]

In August 2020, Hothi sued Elon Musk for defamation over his accusations, in an email exchange with PlainSite's owner Aaron Greenspan, that Hothi had almost killed Tesla employees.[28] The presiding judge rejected Musk's motion to strike the lawsuit in January 2021, therefore allowing for the trial to move forward[29] and Musk's later attempt on appeal at an anti-SLAPP judgment were repudiated.[30]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Niedermeyer, Edward (August 20, 2019). Ludicrous : the unvarnished story of Tesla Motors. Dallas, TX. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-948836-32-6. OCLC 1089841254.
  2. ^ Kolodny, Lora (February 1, 2019). "Anonymous Tesla short sellers who fly over its parking lots taking pictures of cars have a new web site". CNBC. Archived from the original on December 7, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  3. ^ "Identify bots if you want to fix Twitter, advises Elon Musk". The Economic Times. January 18, 2020. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  4. ^ "The Tesla sceptics who bet against Elon Musk". Bloomberg. January 22, 2020. Archived from the original on April 12, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  5. ^ Niedermeyer, Edward. Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. p. 107. ISBN 1-948836-32-7. OCLC 1089841254.
  6. ^ a b c Mitchell, Russ (April 8, 2019). "Must Reads: The crowd-sourced, social media swarm that is betting Tesla will crash and burn". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 30, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  7. ^ Duggan, Wayne (December 21, 2020). "Despite $38.2B In Losses, Tesla Short Sellers Ramp Up Bearish Bets". Yahoo Finance. Archived from the original on January 11, 2021.
  8. ^ Ungarino, Rebecca (April 17, 2019). "Inside Tesla Twitter". Market Insider. Archived from the original on December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  9. ^ Greenspan, Aaron (January 7, 2020). "Plainsite: Tesla: Reality Check". Plainsite. Archived from the original on April 22, 2020. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  10. ^ Goldstein, Matthew; Kelly, Kate; Flitter, Emily (September 18, 2018). "Justice Department Is Examining Tesla After Musk Comment". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on January 4, 2020. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  11. ^ a b McLean, Bethany. ""He's Full of Shit": How Elon Musk Gambled Tesla to Save SolarCity". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on May 7, 2020. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  12. ^ "Elon Musk knew SolarCity was going broke before merger with Tesla, lawsuit alleges". Los Angeles Times. September 24, 2019. Archived from the original on July 30, 2020. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  13. ^ "Tesla is nuts, when's the crash?". ftalphaville.ft.com. Archived from the original on August 11, 2020. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  14. ^ "Who is Elon Musk?". tslaQ.org - Crowdsourced Tesla Research. December 17, 2019. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  15. ^ Butler, Zach (September 30, 2019). "It's Not Just Quarterly Losses — This Is What Will Kill Tesla". The Fast Lane Car. Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  16. ^ Henney, Megan (September 28, 2019). "Tesla and Elon Musk violated labor laws, judge rules". FOXBusiness. Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  17. ^ "Tesla Motors Won't Need More Money, Says CEO Musk". Green Car Reports. Archived from the original on April 16, 2020. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  18. ^ "The Business of Self-Driving Cars: Interview with Russ Mitchell". Brulte & Company. March 17, 2020. 13min 20s. Archived from the original on September 27, 2020. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  19. ^ Muoio, Danielle. "Elon Musk: Tesla's factory will be an 'alien dreadnought' by 2018". Business Insider. Archived from the original on March 29, 2020. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  20. ^ Muoio, Danielle. "Elon Musk: Tesla's factory will be an 'alien dreadnought' by 2018". Business Insider. Archived from the original on March 29, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  21. ^ "The Tesla Skeptics Who Bet Against Elon Musk". Bloomberg.com. January 22, 2020. Archived from the original on April 12, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  22. ^ "The Tesla Skeptics Who Bet Against Elon Musk". Bloomberg.com. January 22, 2020. Archived from the original on April 12, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  23. ^ O'Kane, Sean (July 22, 2019). "Tesla drops lawsuit against critic after judge asks for evidence". The Verge. Retrieved June 2, 2022.
  24. ^ Lopez, Linette (July 22, 2019). "Tesla Drops Suit Against Shortseller". Business Insider. Archived from the original on February 6, 2020. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  25. ^ "Tesla Skeptic Says Allegation He Menaced Workers Isn't True". Claims Journal. May 2, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2022.
  26. ^ O'Kane, Sean (July 22, 2019). "Tesla drops lawsuit against critic after judge asks for evidence". The Verge. Archived from the original on August 18, 2019. Retrieved November 29, 2019.
  27. ^ Mitchell, Russ (July 20, 2019). "Judge told Tesla to release evidence in short seller trial. Instead, Tesla dropped the case". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 2, 2022.
  28. ^ Bruno, Bianca (August 7, 2020). "Tesla Twitter Critic Sues Elon Musk for Defamation". Archived from the original on August 10, 2020. Retrieved August 9, 2020.
  29. ^ "Musk Fails to Get Tesla Critic's Defamation Lawsuit Thrown Out". Bloomberg.com. January 28, 2021. Archived from the original on January 28, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  30. ^ "Elon Musk Can't Shake Tesla Critic's Defamation Fight". Law360. Retrieved January 4, 2022.

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