Elon Musk Selling Earthly Possessions, Gets Yelled at Online

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had an interesting few days. It all kicked off when he went off on the politics behind coronavirus lockdowns — suggesting that state mandates had surpassed what should be deemed reasonable and that civil liberties were being infringed upon — during Wednesday’s earnings call. By week’s end, he was using social media to announce Tesla’s stock price was too high.

Despite it not being his first time making such a claim, and with the automaker turning a surprise first-quarter profit, the company’s share price still lost 10 percent in a single day. Musk then announced he would sell practically everything he owned. Initially, it seemed to be another partial joke taken completely literally by some followers and the media. But Musk began making good on the claim, listing two properties over the weekend.

With everything the man says ending up endlessly scrutinized and rebuffed, Musk has to be beyond flustered. Of course, he’s not terribly precise over Twitter (a limitation of the platform and its user base) and his loose lips have gotten him into trouble in the past. Musk was required to settle a securities fraud lawsuit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought in 2018 as a result of tweets claiming he had the funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share. While he may likewise believe Tesla’s share price is too high, he may have been saying it simply to razz those critical of its consistently robust performance (which includes this outlet).

He also seems to be legitimately stressed out by the current economic/social situation. Unlike some, this author is of the mind that Mr. Musk genuinely believes Americans face unnecessary civil restrictions. A large portion of his Twitter account has become devoted to sharing evidence of the coronavirus pandemic being trumped up by various state leaders, the press, and Silicon Valley. Musk even claimed YouTube parent Google proved his point after a video he posted, in which two front-line doctors said quarantine measures went overboard, was removed for violating the website’s new corporate guidelines mandating that all information about COVID-19 be in accordance with information provided by the World Health Organization (you know, the group that advised against placing restrictions on air travel with China and initially claimed there was no human-to-human contact).

But we’re not here to closely examine Musk’s newfound (or perhaps dormant) political passion, just to assess whether or not it’s real. It seems to be. In addition to Musk feeling uneasy about government overreach in general, it’s likely that he’s similarly perturbed about the way lockdown orders have impacted his own company. Tesla’s main facility in Fremont, California, is currently closed after unsuccessfully challenging a county order on March 25th. The factory was supposed to reopen today; however, the Bay Area has ordered an extension of shelter-in-place orders until at least the start of June.

Musk warns that a prolonged shutdown will nuke the U.S. economy. A large percentage of his Twitter postings in opposition to a national quarantine focus primarily upon the negative financial ramifications. While the validity and effectiveness of state lockdowns can and will be argued about endlessly online, anyone paying attention knows Q2 will be brutal. Musk is undoubtedly thinking about where his car company and its sizable investments are going to be at year’s end and taking into consideration how bad it might be everywhere else.

Tesla intended to continue ramping up production this year, with the goal of delivering 500,000 units. Every minute the factories remains closed, that target gets a little further away. Still, Tesla also managed to fare better than anybody expected in Q1, thanks largely to the sale of carbon credits to other automakers and the company ignoring Californian lockdown orders for much of March . While some have noted this is also roughly the time Musk started ramping up calls for liberty (true), he was issuing cautious tweets about the plight of panic in early April. The forced closing of his factory simply seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, making things much more personal.

This doesn’t explain why he’s selling everything off.

The only explanation Musk gave for ridding himself of his possessions was “freedom,” adding a stipulation that the former home of Hollywood legend Gene Wilder not be torn down or modified in any way. The stock fumble from last week cost him around $3 billion before shares rebounded somewhat, though the homes won’t to be sufficient to recoup that (especially since it isn’t a seller’s market). According to Automotive News, the properties on sale are valued around a combined $39.5 million. Considering he’s one of the wealthiest people on the planet, that’s a rather small sum for Musk. One wonders if he has a plan for the cash amassed with this sell-off, or if there even is one. We’d also like to know what the next item to go on sale will be.

I am selling almost all physical possessions. Will own no house.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 1, 2020

[Image: Tesla]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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8 of 40 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on May 04, 2020

    I love this guy! Thats I call the California attitude! Why do you need all that material garbage? You cannot take it with you.

    • See 5 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 05, 2020

      Now that he's selling his California real estate, he's footloose and fancy free, to coin a phrase. He can rent a mansion anywhere and not be associated with California or any other location. He even has citizenship in three countries: South Africa where he was born, Canada, and the US. He's now a man of many locations - or none at all, the proverbial Citizen Of The World (COTW).

  • Threeer Threeer on May 05, 2020

    And yet he’ll still get his $700M paycheck...

  • Bd2 Probably too late to do anything about it for the launch, but Kia should plan on doing an extensive refresh of the front fascia (the earlier, the better) as the design looks really ungainly.
  • Namesakeone Since I include SUVs and minivans as trucks, I really cannot think of a brand that is truly truckless. MG maybe?
  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.