Tesla’s stock price was essentially flat for several years after the 2010 IPO. There wasn’t a lot going on. In 2008, the carmaker had endured a near-death experience, and in the lead-up to the IPO and afterwards, it was selling only one car, the original Roadster. The business plan at this point was for CEO Elon Musk and his team to keep the lights on long enough in order to roll out Tesla’s first built-from-scratch car, the Model S sedan. Which eventually happened in 2012.
In 2013 Motor Trend named the Model S its Car of the Year. It was at this point, Tesla’s stock price took off. If you bought Tesla stock right after the IPO and held on, you’d be looking at an 1,000%-plus return today.
Since the sudden growth in 2013 Tesla’s stock price history has been one of extreme volatility. Although a stable stock price wasn’t expected or widely predicted. Investor confidence would soar, then collapse, with sentiment turning on every news event, product announcement or delay, quarterly earnings report, and market-moving tweet by Elon Musk
At one point, Musk himself said that the company’s stock price was overvalued. Unlike the rest of the industry, with its slow, predictable stock price behavior for publicly traded carmakers, and with its long business cycles, Tesla was behaving more like a Silicon Valley tech company.
Stock analysts fixated on the pace of deliveries as the best indicator of how Tesla’s stock price was performing. Wondering if there was sufficient demand for Tesla electric cars, in a market that otherwise didn’t seem to want them, to justify the monumental valuation. Eventually, Tesla began reporting quarterly sales, mainly to give the Wall Street analysts and stock investors something to go on.
In 2015, the long-awaited Model X SUV was added to the lineup, enhancing sales and giving Tesla a vehicle to use to compete in the booming crossover market. But the Model X arrived three years late, and the tremendous complexity of the car meant that Tesla spent the first half of 2016 sorting out myriad production issues.Some compensation arrived in the form of the reveal of the Model 3 mass-market vehicle. Tesla quickly racked up 373,000 pre-orders for the vehicle, at $1,000 a pop.
Despite improvements in product. Wall Street was losing the thread, however. And Tesla’s stock price would routinely suffer. Tesla wasn’t considered very good car manufacturer in the traditional sense, consistently missing its deliveries guidance, and investors began to figure this out. Tesla’s stock price volatility had briefly faded, only to return. And until the tail end of 2016, Tesla was enduring a slow stock price slide. Fortunately for Musk, the company had executed a capital raise before the skepticism set it.
However since then Tesla’s stock price has continued toward its all-time highs and broken $300 a share for the first time in the company’s history. At first, it looked like a massive short squeeze — Tesla has always been a popular stock to short. But Tesla stock steadily consolidated its gains.
Tesla has had a highly volatile stock price that has at times baffled investors. There was only one period of smooth price growth, and it gave way to a reliable pattern of volatility that preceded a massive drop.
Up until the recent rallies, it could be argued Wall Street had figured out that Tesla was a car company, not a tech company, and had reset its expectations about growth for the stock price.