Defiance

Displaying an unsurprising anarchic streak, Elon Musk today defied a county lockdown order to reopen his flagship car assembly plant in Fremont, California. The enfant terrible of the US manufacturing industry dared the local sheriff to arrest him and said that he would be onsite orchestrating the start-up of production lines idle since mid-March.

Mr Musk, infamous for lacing his tweets and comments with four-letter expletives, has leveraged his fearsome reputation to drive up the share price of the company in which he retains a 51 percent stake. Since he first vented his anger at the stay-at-home order issued by Alameda County on 29 April and set to expire on 31 May, Tesla shares have gained 35 percent in value, recovering most of the terrain lost when the market pulled back in March. Interestingly, Tesla shares were already on a downward slope when the pandemic reached US shores, retreating from their February peak of almost $970 to settle around $860.

Today, in early morning trading, Tesla shares advanced steadily and tacked another 3.6 percent to their winning streak. Bucking the overall trend of the market, investors in Tesla have seen their holdings double in value so far this year. Over the past 12 months, Tesla stock gained a staggering 262 percent.

Mr Musk is a hook-or-crook kind of guy used to getting his way. He has friends in high places too. Over the weekend, he lambasted county authorities in a series of tweets, threatening to up sticks and move to a more welcoming and pliant jurisdiction. He is on the same page as President Donald Trump and considers the lockdown a ‘power grab by fascists’. Tesla’s battery plant in New York has also been shuttered by these unspecified forces of evil.

Last week, during an earnings call with fund managers and major investors, Mr Musk questioned the constitutional legality of the stay-in-place order decreed by the six counties of San Francisco’s Bay Area as it imprisons people and deprives them of their basic rights. He also feels that his personal freedom to make money has been curtailed.

Tesla manufactures flashy, fast, and often faulty vehicles. The company was not amused when Netflix posted a new batch of episodes of its Fastest Car series. In one memorable episode, a Tesla Model S was pitted against a 1990 Nissan 300SX and a 1989 Ford Mustang souped up by bearded amateur grease monkeys. The car was soundly beaten on the quarter mile by both wheeled rust buckets. Though undeniably fast, the Tesla barely managed to outpace a heavily modified Toyota pickup truck, also partaking in the challenge.

Cabbies in Europe and North America also have a thing or two to report on the build quality and maintenance requirements of their Tesla cars.

All this is not to say that Mr Musk is pursuing his glory without guts, vision, or perseverance. He is in many ways a genius which almost inevitably results in a social deficit. However, as long as he sticks to the rules, all may be forgiven. The trouble is, Mr Musk doesn’t particularly care for rules.

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