News & Analysis

Greenwash overload as Tesla coughs up, yet stock is strong as ever

Andrew Saks, Friday, 30 July 2021

Evergreen electric car manufacturer Tesla has finally put an end to a spot of litigation relating to its rather image-damaging lawsuit that alleged that the company used a software update to reduce the maximum battery voltage in 1,743 Tesla Model S sedans.

This morning, as the markets opened across Europe, analysts began to look at the news of the firm having settled which means that it has by default made an admission of liability, not much happened to the company's share price.

Isn't that fascinating?

Odious diesel emissions cheat Volkswagen was hauled over very hot coals a few years ago by the US government in the form of a class action lawsuit led by activist lawyer Dr Reiner Fuellmich among others, its reputation in tatters, and a massive, crippling settlement having been paid to customers.

Volkswagen then became the unenviable holder of a tarnished image as an old-fashioned purveyor of legacy products, which is unable to modernize and therefore had to resort to fiddling the emissions statistics to stay relevant against modern, ultra-high-tech rivals.

Tesla, however, got away with the electric vehicle version of almost the same thing, almost scot-free, and has even been the subject of increased share prices today.

As a part of this settlement, owners of the vehicle will get getting $625 each which is touted to be “many times the prorated value of the temporarily reduced maximum voltage.” This is based on the proposed settlement documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

As of close of business yesterday, NASDAQ-listed Tesla stock sat at a very high position and has grown in value over the past five days by a remarkable 4.79% to $677.35 per share.

It will be very interesting to see what the movement is this morning but given that such a tiny settlement was accepted by the plaintiffs relating to this lawsuit, it looks like it will be brushed off as a storm in a teacup, largely because Tesla and its maverick founder Elon Musk are massive influencers which are intrinsically intertwined.

Compare this to the way in which Volkswagen was treated, and the two outcomes are massively different.

In April 2017, a US federal judge ordered Volkswagen to pay a $2.8 billion criminal fine for "rigging diesel-powered vehicles to cheat on government emissions tests".

The "unprecedented" plea deal formalized the punishment which Volkswagen had agreed to. Incumbent CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged in the United States with fraud and conspiracy on 3 May 2018 and as of 1 June 2020, the scandal had cost VW $33.3 billion in fines, penalties, financial settlements, and buyback costs.

That is a serious takedown, and the government made a very definite point that it is not acceptable to cheat customers, nor is it acceptable to defraud the government in a country whose Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires the accurate publication of fuel economy and emissions figures to be displayed in writing on new cars via a window ticket.

The treatment of Tesla, however, is arbitrary. Perhaps this reveals the real agenda of global government - the climate agenda.

Of course, in no way is it feasible to condone the activities of Volkswagen back in the mid 2010s, and old-fashioned, noisy diesel engines are quickly becoming a thing of the past, however the difference is that Mr Winterkorn and his legacy company are not influencers, whereas Mr Musk and Tesla are, and are right up there regularly tweeting the climate agenda.

Look what Mr Musk did to cryptocurrency values a few months ago. He singlehandedly crashed them by almost $1 trillion in one go, by simply mentioning on Twitter that Bitcoin mining uses far too much electricity and is therefore not environmentally sound.

So, there we have it. The stock price of Tesla is up despite this odious battery life cheat, and nobody takes the company to task, yet anyone not on board with the climate agenda is decimated.

Perhaps that is why the big investment banks and exchange operators are rallying to get sustainable green 'ESG' funds and products onto the market.

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