Published on June 2nd, 2019 | by Zachary Shahan0
12 Months Of CNBC’s “Top” Tesla Coverage — 2016 Tesla Flashbacks
June 2nd, 2019 by Zachary Shahan
While working on this Tesla flashback regarding Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley, I had the thought to take a more thorough look at the media outlet that I think most prolifically covers Tesla — CNBC.
CNBC is actually an interesting case, because it covers a lot of Tesla topics. It might publish about Tesla more than CleanTechnica does, including news about the stock, software updates, production plans, etc. The result is that CNBC’s “analyses” and guest forecasts (which are generally very negative) are scattered in the middle of matter-of-fact, uncontroversial news.
If you look at the coverage over time, though, you can pick up some interesting info regarding CNBC’s track record. I went into this with a somewhat open mind. From last year’s weekly #Pravduh analyses, I knew CNBC was negatively slanted on Tesla, but I wondered if that would also show as the case in this new analysis focused on 2016. Spoiler: yes, it did. But we’ll get back to that at the end.
For this piece, the methodology was simple: I searched “tesla cnbc” in one-month blocks starting January 2016. I then pulled the top 3 results for each of those months. I either summarized the articles for the list below or simply quoted the headlines if they were clear enough. Also, when videos appeared at or near the top, I decided to include them but also still summarize the 3 top articles. In a handful of cases, I included bonus articles that didn’t quite make the top 3 but seemed to be calling for attention as well. Have a look at the results below. (Note: I put extra commentary in parenthesis, or brackets as the British say, after some of the titles and summaries).
- A simple story on Tesla’s new self-parking capabilities.
- A report of a small fire at Tesla’s Fremont factory. (Why that is really important or relevant, who knows?)
- A story about Apple being in a disastrous situation. (This is a confusing result. In the Google search results, there’s a snippet of a new story about Tesla. It’s unclear who’s fault the odd search result is — CNBC’s or Google’s (or a combo, of course) — but there is no mention of Tesla at all anywhere on the 2016 article page. Nope, not in related posts or anything.)
- A summary of Tesla’s Q4 shareholder report, with a focus on Tesla showing an 87¢/loss instead of “expected” 10¢/share earnings. (Despite the “unexpected loss,” which was unexpected because of a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate, the Tesla stock price “spiked,” reportedly due to “high” 2016 guidance of 80,000–90,000 deliveries.)
- Video: “This is the Tesla Model S for kids.”
- An article about how people will be able to reserve a $35,000 Tesla Model 3.
- “Elon Musk personally cancels ‘rude’ customer’s Tesla order.”
- A video about Tesla’s coming Model 3 unveiling, and Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Ben Kallo discussing his expectations
- A video of Citron Research’s Andrew Left explaining why he’s short selling Tesla [TSLA] (Notably, Left and Citron Research flipped from shorting Tesla to going long in the second half of 2018 and included 4 of my charts in his letter explaining why.)
- A story about a Tesla Model S owner protesting Singapore’s carbon surcharge.
- A video about “Tesla pain ahead?” focused on conjecture from Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas. (Yes, that Adam Jonas.)
- A poll on whether people would put down a $1,000 reservation for a Model 3. (Poll results are not shown.)
- A simple article about Tesla opening up reservations for the Model 3.
- “Why Tesla’s Model 3 is blowing away expectations” (Hmm, yes, why?)
- “Tesla recalls 2700 Model X cars“
- “Model 3 demand raises key question for Tesla” The “key question” was: “Will the company need to raise billions of dollars to expand its capacity?”
- “Tesla short interest hits record high” (Bonus — because this made me smile.)
- “200000 Reasons Not To Buy A Tesla” (Bonus — because this made me smile and shake my head.)
- “Tesla reports Q1 results” (Apparently, this is CNBC’s simple, straightforward, no-flair way of titling quarterly report articles.)
- “Jim Chanos: I’m Short Tesla” (What else do you need to know?)
- “Elon Musk: Tesla paid $55 an hour to paint-factory builders” Why was this news? Because a previous article from Mercury News said that Tesla was paying them $5/hour, which had people flipping out. Elon Musk corrected the record on Twitter and CNBC turned it into an article. Sadly, I imagine some people still think Tesla pays its workers horribly because of that original story. (This is how people like AOC get turned on Tesla.)
- There was also an article about Tesla and SolarCity burning up cash that featured a video titled “Cracks in Elon’s empire” (Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!)
- “Tesla shares crater as Wall Street reacts to bid for SolarCity” (Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!)
- “Billionaire Ron Baron bets on Tesla being one of the world’s biggest companies“
- “Cramer: Jay Leno’s shocking wake-up call on Tesla.” Leno states in the interview, “I don’t understand why people attack this car. It is made in America, by Americans. It is built local. You know we are becoming like the British — we like noble failures more than we reward success.” CNBC also summarized, “Leno compared Tesla CEO Elon Musk to great car legends such as Thomas Edison or Henry Ford for his ability to produce cars against all odds.” I kept searching for the scary wake-up call regarding Tesla, not only because of the title but also this early line in the article: “But it was the acknowledgement of the undercurrent of gloom within the American business foundation that stuck with Cramer.” As it turns out, though, the point quite hidden until you made it further down the article was this: “Thus, if the success of entrepreneurs like Elon Musk is overlooked, there is clearly a negative backdrop to the stock market. The gloom has permeated stocks for so long; many investors forget that anything can even go up. ‘I suggest you use Jay’s words, not as a clarion call to go buy stocks, but as a reminder that getting too pessimistic is at odds with reality, and that progress is worth celebrating,’ Cramer said.” (Hmm, talk about not only burying the lede but trying to kill it.)
- “A rare look inside Tesla’s ‘gigafactory’” (It’s not exactly a CleanTechnica Tesla factory tour, but it’s something.)
- “Tesla says Fortune is ‘fundamentally incorrect’ on autopilot, after Model S crash” (CNBC covers the debate, doesn’t pick a side since it doesn’t have an opinion since it doesn’t know how to exercise logic in order to solve math problems or basic logic. Ah, old ideals of a robotic press with horrible deduction skills.)
- A long story about Tesla Master Plan, Part Deux — of course, CNBC has to work in fears of profitability, concerns about vehicle quality, insinuations Tesla Autopilot isn’t safe, and questions about whether the second Tesla master plan is realistic; while not mentioning that Tesla’s vehicles had the best safety ratings (in history), Tesla owners were more satisfied with their vehicles than owners of any other cars (according to Consumer Reports), and the fact that Tesla absolutely nailed its first master plan.
- I’m not linking to it, but the next article was someone claiming Elon Musk was “the biggest weakness” of Tesla — so absurd it’s depressing
- “Tesla: Will it kill off the demand for oil? Not quite yet” (Surprised by the title? This one was a guest post from the investment director at GAM for energy equities. It was quite a good article, like an article you’d find on CleanTechnica, and a typo even snuck in — “Yet the question of how the world will change once electric car sales really start to take off has receives surprisingly little interest.” Honestly, it seems so out of place on CNBC that I am confused how it got there. I’d think perhaps it was an advertorial — sponsored post — but there’s no indication of that.)
- “Marc Faber: Tesla shares are going to $0” (Oh my! Lions and tigers and bears! Sound familiar?)
- Video: “Time to short Tesla?” (Our friend Mark Spiegel.)
- Video: “Is Tesla in trouble?” (Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!)
- Video: “Tesla’s autopilot car in crash” (CRASH!!! NO!!! Scary. These cars must be dangerous, right?)
For some reason, there were no more CNBC Tesla articles in August 2016 according to Google. 😛 Maybe Google also got sick of the FUD. 😉
- Video: “Morgan Freeman’s stock buy: Tesla“
- Video: “Cowen: Sell Tesla“
- “Tesla says Mobileye balked after learning carmaker to make own cameras“
- “Tesla’s autopilot gets an update as safety debate swirls“
- “One trader’s plan to make $12.6 million by betting on Tesla“
- Bonus: “Luxury automakers to Tesla: We’re coming for you” (Included this because, 3 years later, the headline is hilarious. Not only have luxury automakers not “come for” Tesla, they’ve been completely embarrassed by the Silicon Valley automaker. Tesla has been dominating the luxury car segment, as I noted most recently here: “13 Amazing Tesla Sales Milestones (+ 17 Charts).”)
- Bonus: “Chinese company hacks Tesla car remotely” (Scary, eh? Must not be a safe car to own.)
- Bonus: “Dutchman dies in Tesla crash; firefighters feared electrocution” (Unfortunate. And scary, of course.)
- Bonus: “The stocks millennials love to buy” (Included because I’ve been planning to write about this topic for months.)
- Video: “Elon Musk Responds To Coal CEO Who Called Tesla A ‘Fraud’” (For the record, that coal CEO also essentially threatened one of our writers — I think in 2016 as well.)
- Video: “Tesla goes fully autonomous“
- Video: “Coal-mining CEO: ‘Tesla is a fraud’“
- “Tesla vehicles being produced now have full self-driving hardware“
- “Elon Musk says: ‘It’s not Tesla vs Uber. It is the people vs Uber“
- “Tesla releases video of fully self-driving car that could pick you up from across the country“
- “Why Jay Leno wants you to root for Tesla“
- Google title: “Billionaire Ron Baron Tesla elon musk electric automaker” (seriously — that’s the title showing in Google). Actual article title: “Billionaire Ron Baron: I could make 30-50 times my money on Tesla over next 15 years“
- “Musk got what he wanted in Tesla-SolarCity deal — how about investors?“
- “Tesla Autopilot appears to ‘predict’ accident in front of it“
- “Tesla recalls charging adapters after overheating“
- “Tesla owner files lawsuit in California claiming sudden acceleration“
In the end, let’s count up the negatives versus positives versus neutrals. I’ll exclude the bonus articles since those were clearly subjective picks.
There were 23 negative stories, 13 positive stories, and 12 neutral stories.
There were also some clear patterns. There was a repeated focus on short sellers, as if they offered the most insightful and unbiased view of the company. There was also repeated fear-mongering about safety, and no mention I could find of Tesla having the safest vehicles ever tested by the NHTSA or Autopilot saving lives. CNBC seemed happy to throw around claims of fraud, predictions of $0/share Tesla (aka bankruptcy), and other negative insinuations. It did also present some of the most bullish cases from time to time.
Much more could be said, but at the end of the day, what else needs to be said?
Help others to learn about the rest of the Tesla story as you can, the story CNBC isn’t telling too well. If you need help, I know a good little cleantech site that puts a lot more of the pieces of the puzzle together.
Incidentally, that video was uploaded to YouTube in 2016.
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