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Tesla’s bloated stock price is fighting a fire

  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Just 30 seconds of video—and please, future citizen journalists, do us all a favor and film with your phone held horizontally—created a tough week for Tesla Motors:

The video shows a Tesla Model S—Consumer Reports’ top-scoring car in 2013—burning by the side of the road. Apparently, a piece of metal punctured the lithium battery pack, compromising the cooling system. The driver was warned to pull over and exit the car, and was unharmed; the fire apparently did not penetrate the cabin and the extensively crash-tested car should probably still be considered safe.

But Tesla’s stock has plunged on the news, likely out of fear that the scary images might make buyers of an already-exotic vehicle hesitate. That’s not necessarily a huge deal for the company; the stock remains up 491% on the year and even founder Elon Musk has admitted that it is appears to be overvalued by the markets.  That makes sense: Tesla, with a market cap of $21 billion, is probably not worth more than Porsche today, though a fairly optimistic scenario outlined by NYU finance professor Aswath Damodaran suggests that some day it might be.

For now, the move may inspire redesigns by the Tesla staff as they try to figure out what went wrong and perhaps new safety standards for electric vehicles. Of course, the government shutdown is affecting this, too: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, expected to investigate the crash, may take longer than usual, thanks to the lack of available employees.

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