All hail the Technoking

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
19 March, 2021

Filings to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rarely have entertainment value. That is unless Elon Musk is involved.

Electric car company Tesla just lodged a current record under Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Its purpose: to inform the SEC about new job titles for Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk and chief financial officer Zach Kirkhorn.

While retaining their CEO and CFO titles, Musk made himself ‘Technoking of Tesla’ and Kirkhorn ‘Master of Coin’.

Such grandiose titles are appropriate at Tesla. It is a company with a market capitalisation of US$ 700 billion. That is roughly US$1.3 million for every car produced. Just by comparison, for Toyota that number is only a measly US$ 117,000.

Tesla’s price-earnings ratio of just over 1,100 is also somewhat unusual, as the long-run average for S&P 500 stocks stands at around 15. Musk’s techno-kingdom would have to last longer than a millennium for Tesla’s annual profits to equal the share price.

With figures like that, no wonder CEO and CFO no longer cut it.

The only surprise is how modest Musk and Kirkhorn have been. ‘Technoemperor’, ‘Technopope’ or ‘Technogod’ would have been fitting options for Musk.

‘Master of Coin’ is hardly sufficient, either. As a tower of dollar coins, Tesla’s market cap would stretch to the moon and back – twice, in fact. ‘Money Master’, ‘Wealth Wizard’ or ‘Treasure Top Gun’ would better reflect that.

With all this grandiosity in the wonderful Kingdom of Tesla, now would be the time for King Elon and his Master of Coin to sort out a few minor issues.

The latest J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study compared 32 car brands and how many technical issues their buyers report in the first three months. Tesla came out worst with 250 problems for every 100 new cars. The industry average was only 166.

Gaps between exterior panels, door-closing and paint-job issues are not what one would expect in a Technoking’s products.

But such misleading advertising would not be an issue for the SEC but for the consumer protection division at the US Federal Trade Commission.

In the meantime, let’s see if the SEC accepts the introduction of monarchical elements in US corporates. And let’s wait for King Elon’s next stoush with the SEC once he starts tweeting ad hoc stuff again.

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