Tesla stock crashes due to possible loss of tax credit


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The stock of Elon Musk’s Tesla electric car company crashed this week, dropping 7% on Wednesday, with the revelation that the Republican tax plan proposes eliminating the $7,500 tax credit for buying an electric car.

Its share price fell more than seven per cent to about $296 apiece from Wednesday’s $321. The draft law emerged as the Elon-Musk-led automaker announced its worst-ever quarter, recording a $671m loss and admitting it had not met its production target for its new Model 3 car, producing just 220 of them against its 1,500 target.

Economists believe that the tax credit is a key driver for electric car sales, and cite the example of when the state of Georgia cut its $5,000 tax credit and saw sales of electric cars slump from 1,400 a month to just 100 a month in response.

What this story highlights is that electric cars are simply not economical at this time, and that the government is distorting the market by pushing them. Without government aid, practically no one would buy them.

It would be far better for everyone to let the market decide. Not only would this save us tax dollars, it would allow the industry to focus its innovative efforts on upgrades that are cost effective and profitable, rather than on pie-in-the-sky fantasies that actually do no good at all.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette for pointing me to this story.

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18 comments

  • Dick Eagleson

    You’re wrong in thinking that there is no market for electric cars. There is no market for bad electric cars. Even a passably good electric car, like GM’s late EV-1, had a lot more fans than its maker, GM, was willing to accommodate. Tesla’s sales have been based on market appeal, not the availability of subsidy.

    I also think the “economists” – in this case as in so many others – are wrong. I suspect the drop in Tesla’s stock price was a straightforward result of the big quarterly loss, not the possible repeal of the federal electric car subsidy. My understanding of the federal subsidy is that it goes away, anyway, as soon as a given electric car maker has sold its 200,000-th vehicle. Tesla must be pushing that number pretty hard if, indeed, it hasn’t already crossed it.

    Until the Model 3, Tesla’s vehicles have always been in luxury price categories where demand is little-affected by the federal subsidy. The effect on sales of the federal subsidy going away, for whatever reason, may be greater anent the Model 3, but even the Model 3 isn’t exactly an economy car. It’s base price is still two or three times that of an entry-level Kia or Hyundai.

    Tesla needs to post at least some modest quarterly profits, but it’s hardly the only high-profile company to have had sketchy profitability for a long time. Amazon also comes to mind. Fixing Model 3’s production problems is evidently a process, not an event. Tesla, is, for better or worse, a public company. Elon may have to hold back a bit on some of Tesla’s in-the-pipe initiatives such as the semi-tractor in order to get existing initiatives suitably profitable. Fortunately, he has been able to keep SpaceX private and isn’t similarly constrained there.

  • wayne

    Dick–
    -Same quarter last year, Tesla eked out a (rare) $22 million profit on operation’s, but with a lot of footnotes, asterisk’s, and “extra-ordinary” items. They do have more working-cash on hand this period compared to last year, but Musk himself is predicting his burn-rate will escalate into 2018, until they can increase production.

    -The Federal subsidy is a bit more complicated than you describe, and various State matching-subsidy programs have already expired, with a similar related sales drop. (>fully granted, correlation isn’t causation. But it’s a common proxy by which the business-press likes to grasp upon.) Parts of the Subsidy are scheduled to sunset automatically, other parts must be affirmatively re-authorized, and stuff like the LEV Credit (I believe) are tied specifically to various CAFE laws and standards.
    (That Register article is far from complete, nor clear.)

    -At it’s height, Tesla buyers were receiving credits in the $17,500 range. (I may be mistaken on that, I confuse the subsidies for Solar City solar-panels and Tesla cars, there are so MANY of them to keep track of, which is the problem to address.)

    -In addition, one of the few profit-centers for Tesla is selling their L.E.V. (low-emission-vehicle) Credits to other auto makers who use them to offset their production of high value (and long-range) trucks & SUV’s.

    -I’m not opposed to electric-cars, but we aren’t there, yet. Musk is finding out just how capital-intensive & complicated, mass production of cars actually is. The less distortions introduced into this market, the better.

    No reason to subsidize Musk. (He’s already rich. Why not let me, keep more of my money, myself?)

    -I absolutely can not fault Musk and his rockets, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that he’s another Henry Ford, or that everything he touches is inevitably golden.

  • Laurie

    Electric vehicles are an important piece in the smart city initiative – they aren’t going anywhere. More money will fall from the sky. The market has nothing to do with it.

  • Cotour

    The market has everything to do with it, the government has manipulated the market to make electric cars happen. No subsidy, no electric cars, no Tesla.

    The government can really only do two things, create incentive or create disincentive. Disincentive = taxation. Incentive = subsidy or no taxation. Also, subsidy means that the government has taken money from someone and given it to someone else.

    When you make a statement like “The market has nothing to do with it”, what you are saying is that government will choose for the people and the people will do as the government decrees. That is not a “market”. A market is based on an individuals choice both in item or service and price, in this case you promote no choice I.E. socialism.

  • Dick Eagleson

    wayne,

    Nothing I’ve seen indicates any Tesla customer ever qualified for a $17,500 rebate. The federal rebate is $7,500. California has its own $5,000 rebate, but it’s means-tested and typical Tesla customers don’t qualify. A typical logic-free California lefty feel-good program. We’ll encourage electric cars by subsidizing them but only if the buyers are poor or good proletarians. Problem is the early adopters of expensive new technology aren’t typically poor or good proletarians. I wonder whether anyone in California has ever qualified for that “rebate.”

    Given that the Roadster and Model S both had six-figure price tags and the Model X has one in the high five-figures, the market impact of a $7,500 rebate was never large. People bought Teslas to show off and be cool. And because it meant they could sell the darned Priuses and drive something fun again without being slagged by their Greenie friends.

    Once the Model 3’s production teething problems are behind it, I think it will be a solid seller.

    It has been alleged that Tesla gets a sizable fraction of its income from Low-Emission Vehicle Credits it sells to other automakers. I’ve never seen any numbers on this, though. A few minutes of searching didn’t turn up any. As you are still a Michigander, you might know more about this than I do as the auto industry is still a much bigger deal there than here in California. It would be nice to know what the actual numbers on this are.

    Elon has always tended to spend as aggressively as possible – and sometimes a bit beyond what is possible – on capital expenditures aimed at achieving greater capability and/or production volumes. Where Tesla is concerned, probably all he needs to do is dial this back a bit.

  • Nick

    Dick –
    You are incorrect re Tesla. Not all the California credits go to car buyers. $5000 goes directly as a subsidy to Tesla itself. It’s explained in detail here…. (which I found quite quickly)
    http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/elon-musk-profits-from-billions-in-subsidies-for-his-electric-cars/
    Eligibility for the rebate is higher than you think as well, and is described here…
    https://cleanvehiclerebate.org/eng/requirements/1408

    I have some familiarity with the program that allows the state to gouge car companies. I laughed at the current head of the Air Resources Board on a conference call almost 20 years ago when she told me that the electric car mandate would guarantee that (I think it was 10%) of the fleet would be electric. I said that there was neither a market for them, nor was the price low enough, nor was the technology ready (despite the EV-1) enthusiasts. So they changed it to a fine and have been collecting fines ever since then, much of which has gone directly to Tesla (and then to other auto manufacturers as they pulled electrics on line).

    That said, people do like SOME rebate. Its basic economics. Sometimes an extra 10K makes a difference. Sometimes it doesn’t. But the rebate will have an impact on some people. Not all.

    That said, of all the programs put out by the federal government, I appreciate Elon Musk’s use of these programs the most. The majority of rent seekers have not done anything to make the world a better place. Elon Musk has a plan – solar, electric vehicles (of which he has developed multiple new motor technologies, using high end modeling tools, and he has released the patents on many of them), SpaceX, and the Boring company. They all have applications here, but they are meant for Out There. He could spend all his money on a big yacht like that phony diCaprio.

    However, he’s not a complete genius. Apparently he has never read the classic book on supply chains (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Machine_That_Changed_the_World_%28book%29, https://mondaynote.com/teslas-new-car-smell-315c72c955d3). I have worked on modeling assembly lines, and what is described here is probably more at cause for the fall in stock than the loss of the rebate. He announced several days ago that he wasn’t producing up to where he needed to be. The loss of the rebate was just icing. He needs some help, and maybe a little less hubris.

    I still wish him luck. The electric car helps energy security, and the technologies help space development. That’s enough for me.

  • Dave

    I have yet to see Tesla spend money on advertising. Demand is still outpacing their ability to produce vehicles. At a minimum this leaves the question of what price a good electric vehicle can command. Jury is still out as far as I see. Hasn’t Elon always said thethe stock is over valued?

  • pzatchok

    Nick

    Your link does not state that Tesla receives any direct cash from the government.
    http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/elon-musk-profits-from-billions-in-subsidies-for-his-electric-cars/

    The closest thing they get to direct cash is movies from other car manufacturers but that is ONLY because they are following the law and also because they are providing a service to those car companies. But it is not government cash or tax credits of any kind.

    Also the article forgets a huge portion of Tesla sales. Exports. Export sales do NOT give any US federal tax credits to the buyer. But Tesla does still get the carbon credits to sell.

    Tax credits to the buyer do not equal cash in the sellers pocket, otherwise the same people who accuse Tesla of profiting from these tax credits should also be crying about home sales/mortgage tax credits profiting the builders and bankers. Who has ever bought a house just because of the tax credits?

  • wayne

    Dick–
    I am fuzzy on the (dozens of) ways these cars are subsidized, but to briefly clarify my “up to 17,500” remark, I would point to a 2015 article– references “section 179 IRS code” and the “Hummer loophole:”

    “All the benefits — the tax credit, (CA) state rebate and deduction — could reduce the price of the Model X by $18,250. But the regulations also allow eligible taxpayers to depreciate what’s left of the price over five years. That would add roughly an additional $4,000 in tax savings for the year the Model X was purchased.”
    http://beta.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-tesla-tax-break-20151013-story.html
    (Fully granted, The LA Times hates Musk.)

    If a Realtor in California wants to use his Tesla in the ordinary course of his business (and with the associated tax-laws in effect)– why do I have to subsidize him/her??

    We need to separate these cars & technology, from the man who produces them, and have a real discussion over How and to what Extent we will put up with favoring one industry over another in their rent-seeking and cronyism. No matter if anyone of us personally likes Musk or his cars.

    I don’t blame Musk for hitching his wagon to the Government trough, but to say it’s not hitching his wagon to the government trough, is incorrect. ($4billion in direct/indirect subsidies, of all manner and kind, for Tesla, since it’s founding.)

    It’s only a matter of degree. Musk is a Crony, the only question is, how much of a crony is he?

  • wayne

    -Interesting input from all.

    I hate to reference the Wall Street Journal because of their pay wall, but they had at least 1/2 a dozen articles this past week on Tesla. (it’s the 3rd Q reporting Season)
    They do generate a lot of revenue, but their expenses are outa control.
    We may very well get mass-produced electric cars in the near(er) term, but there is no guarantee that Tesla is the company, that will be making them, nor under this crony-esque regime upon which it has built itself.

    Nick– interesting take.

    I’m not prepared to “go there” fully, but I rather think Musk’s medium/longer-term view is dictated, at least in part, by whether he takes his med’s consistently.

  • Nick

    This was big news several months ago…

    http://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-sales-stopped-in-hong-kong-tax-break-for-electric-cars-scrapped-2017-7

    It definitely shows the elasticity of the market based on rebates.

    pzatchok, as for the influence of California, the article I linked to summarizes what is in the LA Times article….

    “The Palo Alto company has also collected more than $517 million from competing automakers by selling environmental credits. In a regulatory system pioneered by California and adopted by nine other states, automakers must buy the credits if they fail to sell enough zero-emissions cars to meet mandates. The tally also includes some federal environmental credits.”

    The fines go to Tesla, and are mandated by the Blue States. Its one of the reasons the automakers have gotten into the market. They figure if they have to lose money, they might as well compete. And until recently it has been a losing proposition – including the famed EV-1 which had potential issues and real liability. GM didn’t want that. Here’s an article that touches on just a tip of the iceberg for the EV-1 – it was not ready for market, as the electronics were in an extremely primitive and failure prone state. It wasn’t a conspiracy. GM didn’t want the liability.

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-06-22/travel/0806190517_1_ev1-chevy-volt-gm

    That refers to California’s requirement of 10% ZEVs sold by 2002(?) (I think – its been a long time). I won’t say they changed it to a fine because of me – just that I laughed at her and she hung up (I won’t say what we were discussing because that would help identify me – something I now avoid on public websites).

  • wayne

    Nick-
    Good stuff. I had forgotten about the Hong Kong ‘thang.
    Tangentially– what is the California State gas-tax, per gallon?

    Crony Capitalism = new, innovative, and exciting ways to extract money from some people, and direct it other people, while making it appear to have an air of free exchange.

    A Piece of the Action
    ending clip
    https://youtu.be/FbBuNGVDNCM
    2:04

  • pzatchok

    “Tesla welcomes government policies that support our mission and make it easier for more people to buy electric vehicles, however, our business does not rely on it,” Tesla said in a statement. The company said its sales revenue in China, where it faces large tariffs, has risen without government incentives. “At the end of the day, when people love something, they buy it,” it said.

    In reference to the HK policy.
    “Citing increased congestion of privately owned vehicles on its streets, the government said in February that it would be changing the policy so the tax would be waived only on the first 97,500 Hong Kong dollars (about US$12,500) of an electric car’s purchase price for individuals. After the change came into effect on April 1, the cost of a basic Tesla Model S in Hong Kong effectively rose to around US$130,000 from less than US$75,000. ”

    Tesla is still selling vehicles in HK. They just stopped for that quarter in part because of its massive increased sales before the tax change went into effect.
    “The collapse followed a surge just before the tax change, which had been announced in February, with new registrations of almost 3,700 Tesla vehicles in the first quarter — including 2,939 in March alone — compared with 1,506 vehicles in the entire second half of 2016. ”

    And again none of those tax incentives were monies handed to Tesla. They all applied to the buyer.

    As for Tesla profiting off of Carbon Credits.
    Carbon credits are NOT cash from the government. They are closer to industrial bitcoins. A somewhat artificial money created and forcefully imposed by the government. They are not fines that are collected by the state and handed out to companies they choose.
    Its profits “money” handed from one company to another.

    If you want to stop Tesla, plus thousands of other companies, from profiting off of these artificial carbon credits then just get rid of them.

    By the way a few EV-1 were accidentally sold to private owners and were “upgraded” by them to keep them on the road. Chevy actively worked to buy them back.

    And a few other vehicles were produced by Chevy and Ford.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_S-10_EV
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Ranger_EV
    And many of these are still in private hands.
    You would think that if carbon credits and tax discounts were enough to keep a company profitable the big two would be all over it.

    By the way, two of my friends own NG powered cars and I am thinking of making my next car an NG powered one also. We do our own maintenance and they are not to difficult to work on.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Nick and Wayne,

    The IER does good work opposing the Anti-Carbon Mafia, but it has also thrown in with private-sector electric utilities that hate Elon Musk because Tesla’s rooftop solar and PowerWall products constitute a nascent threat to their government-granted local monopolies on electrical generation and distribution. There are no free-market purists here.

    IER makes a lot of noise about “subsidies” but what its utility backers really hate is the net billing requirements most states have in place that require rooftop solar installation owners to pay utilities only for the net amount of power they consume monthly. But net billing is very popular and subsidies are not, so IER bangs on the subsidies instead. Its report, though, does reinforce my point about the federal electric vehicle subsidy auto-sunsetting with the sale of electric vehicle 200,001 by any car maker.

    IER’s credibility is not helped when it repeats that $4 billion-in-“subsidies” canard first published in the L.A. Times. The figure was arrived at by adding up the maximum possible amount of tax abeyance Tesla will get from the State of Nevada for its Gigafactory over the next 30 years.

    The rank speculations reported as to what Tesla’s alleged sales prices for Model 3 have to be to insure profitability are laughably similar to a lot of the equally ill-intended and ill-informed idiocy still being paraded around by some about the alleged state of SpaceX’s finances. Sorry, no sale here.

    As your sources note, the individual and household income ceilings beyond which the California Zero-Emission Vehicle Credit is invalid are $150,000 and $300,000, respectively. Those income levels would be top-shelf in much of the country, but not in the only remaining really prosperous part of California, the four or five counties surrounding San Francisco. There, such incomes are barely middle-class and housing – even apartments – are so pricey I don’t think too many earners who come in under these ceilings are really prime prospects for six-figure rides. I suspect the number of people with incomes up to 3 times the federal poverty level who’ve gotten the theoretically available extra subsidies on cars with high-five- and low-six-figure price tags can be counted on the thumbs of no hands. The subsidy percentage would probably have to hit 90% of purchase price or above to move the needle significantly for this demographic. That’s not going to happen even in California.

    It is certainly true that the availability of subsidies is not completely without effect in the car market, but the effect, where Tesla is concerned, is neither large nor crucial to its overall economics.

    As pzatchok notes, Teslas have sold well overseas even given that no subsidies attach. I would also add that these sales have occurred despite many nations having electric car recharging infrastructures notably inferior even to those of the U.S.

    Tesla’s troubles in China are due entirely to the aggressively mercantilist nature of Chinese government trade policy. Simply put, Tesla cars proved way too popular an import. China’s government doesn’t want to import anything, it wants Western companies to set up domestic manufacturing operations. It seems that Tesla is in the early process of ginning up to do that. Most Western firms find this a Faustian bargain that puts their IP in Chinese hands. Tesla, having already made all its IP effectively public domain, has no such problem.

    The biggest reason Musk and Tesla are such targets is simply that they have made and sold significant numbers of all-electric cars. There is nothing that would have prevented U.S. and foreign car makers from also taking advantage of these federal and state subsidy programs while also generating ZEV credits for the rest of their fleets, but none save Nissan and GM have done so and both efforts seem half-hearted at best. Given that all Tesla’s IP is out there for the taking, one can only attribute this to a deeply-ingrained NIH syndrome that rivals that of the legacy aerospace majors anent SpaceX.

    If all these federal programs of market distortion and thumb-scaling in favor of electric vehicles were to end tomorrow, I think Tesla would take a modest one-time hit, then shake it off and continue on its current course, perhaps at a reduced rate of acceleration.

    Perhaps the strangest canard thrown around is “crony capitalist” anent Musk. Who, exactly, are his “cronies” supposed to be? Some have tried to impute everything SpaceX has gotten from the U.S. government to Musk’s supposed “crony” ties to Obama. Musk donated $2,500 to each of Obama’s presidential campaigns. The idea that Elon is some sort of Obama golf buddy or something is just bonkers. But it is almost plausible next to the idea that Musk is some sort of “crony” of Donald Trump. The Musk-Trump entente didn’t last very long nor end very well as was publicly obvious.

    Musk is not Tony Stark and he’s not John Galt. He is Wernher von Braun Delos D. Harriman. The jury is still out on whether he will ever be Henry Ford, Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison in addition. He plans out his businesses based on personal views about where the world needs to go and proceeds on the basis that the fundamental economics have to be there. Things such as government subsidies, he takes advantage of to increase acceleration where possible.

    Others could, in theory, have done what Musk did, but he did do it and they – for whatever congeries of reasons – did not. As I’ve noted repeatedly, here and elsewhere, if government subsidy is really the key to Musk’s success, the obvious question is why he doesn’t have platoons of peers in the industries he’s entered? I think the answer is equally obvious – Musk is simply a quite singular figure. That seems, for some reason, to very much disturb a lot of people on both the left and the right these days. I do not regard this irrational denigration, and even denial, of great achievements as auguring well for the future of the Republic.

  • ken anthony

    Another subsidy, although I have no idea how wide spread it is, is CA has state employee parking spaces for electric vehicles so they can charge for free.

  • wayne

    https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/climate-change-cant-excuse-electric-car-subsidies

    I only have a dog in this hunt, to the extent my money is expropriated from me under the color of law, and directed toward a millionaire, for dubious social engineering outcomes.

    I think I already know what Musk is, I’m just trying to determine his price.
    Let us not forget, this dude thinks global-warming is real, and I’m among the people he blames for it. He’s going to save us from killer-robots.

  • pzatchok

    As for musk believing in climate change.

    Why would he tell everyone he doesn’t? After the super rich his biggest customer pool is the most ardent believers in climate change.
    He sells everything from battery banks to solar panels and even electric cars.

    Plus whats it matter as long as he keeps being a good businessman and doesn’t foolishly throw money at some idiot idea to save the planet.

  • ken anthony

    He would be a fool not to take money if the govt. offers it. Should govt. offer it is an entirely different question.

    I completely disagree with social security and the govt. manipulation of the time value of money. But the govt. took my money when I worked and I’ll be damned before I allow them to take my benefits now without a fight.

    I can’t go back in time to fix what the govt. did, nor could I if I could send just the knowledge back. Life starts now with the cards we have. It’s never been fair.

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