MARK SPIEGEL: I've been called obsessed with this by a lot of people. I don't usually talk stocks around the apartment, because it drives my girlfriend crazy. I especially don't talk Tesla. And by the way, it's not-- it's not ruling my life. I mean, I don't think about it while I'm out to dinner, or while I'm sleeping, or whatever.
But none of us can believe what's so obvious and out there in plain sight is being improperly priced by the markets.
ROSS GERBER: I have tremendous amount of fans in the real world. Like, when I go out in LA, and people start talking about Tesla and my reputation with Tesla--
I mean, I'm getting clients because of this. I'm going up to San Francisco. This whole Tesla club wants to meet me. Tesla fans are rabid fans and they love me for sticking up for Tesla.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Tesla is perhaps the most polarizing company in stock market history. Where some see brilliant disruption, others find blatant fraud. This is a story about innovation, belief, money, lies--
VOICE: I love Tesla. Thank you, Elon Musk.
MARK SPIEGEL: Tesla is a fraud, what else is new.
GRANT WILLIAMS: And a whole lot of noise--
LINETTE LOPEZ: There is no comparing any company to Tesla. It's a Wall Street debt story. It's a Page Six story. It is a Silicon Valley story. It is an American dream story. And it is a mess.
CATHIE WOOD: Tesla is disrupting the existing world order and the traditional-- the old guard does not like that.
LAWRENCE FOSSI: Very truly, I am offended by the dishonesty of Elon Musk.
ROSS GERBER: I'm biased. I'm biased to a guy who's made me millions of dollars.
MARK SPIEGEL: Everyday there's like a new you know, scammy thing that comes out about this company.
CHARLEY GRANT: Some people on Wall Street love it. And some people see a dishonest company that's going off the rails.
GRANT WILLIAMS: In Tesla, the bulls see a truly innovative brand, upending the status quo of the auto industry and ushering in a sustainable age of travel that frees us from fossil fuels and brings us closer to the ubiquity of AI.
At the helm, they see a genius and a visionary, pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible. A billionaire celebrity CEO for the modern age. Me, I think the whole thing is a gigantic fraud. And it's going to end up hitting the wall and likely taking the market down with it.
I've spent 35 years working in financial markets, in seven countries all around the globe. I've seen every boom, bust, and bubble since the mid-1980s, but I've never seen anything like Tesla. And I'm not alone.
MARK SPIEGEL: Number one, it has nothing meaningfully proprietary in terms of technology. Number two, it loses a lot of money. It's lost all this money before the real competition has come in.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Mark Spiegel is one of the poster boys of an online community of Tesla skeptics who've been dubbed TSLA-Q.
MARK SPIEGEL: TSLA-Q are a bunch of guys who found each other on Twitter, who all came to be short this stock, Tesla.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Short sellers bet against stocks, borrowing shares, and then selling them in order to profit if the price goes down. If they're wrong, short sellers expose themselves to unlimited losses, so they need to have a high degree of confidence in their thesis.
MARK SPIEGEL: When a stock enters bankruptcy, it gets a Q attached to the end of the ticker. And so we kind of thought that was a clever way of referring to Tesla, because that's where we think it's headed.
GRANT WILLIAMS: TSLA-Q has grown organically through social media, attracting experts from all kinds of different fields, many of them outside finance.
MACHINE PLANET: Why are we out doing practical research? Because we can't get the truth about this company. Lying is like breathing for this company. They've done it for so long they don't know the difference.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Many TSLA-Q members prefer to stay anonymous for fear of retribution from Elon Musk. And they have good reason. Musk has attacked critics before.
TESLA CHARTS: I have searched for reasonable, quantifiable, bullish arguments to support the value of Tesla equity, exhaustively. And I have not found one. And the lack of it over time only hardens one's views.
LAWRENCE FOSSI: I have never shorted a stock in my life, in any way, except Tesla. Its stock is stratospherically valued relative to fundamentals.
GRANT WILLIAMS: The company is valued at over $50 billion, putting it among the top seven auto manufacturers in the world. There's just one problem.
LINETTE LOPEZ: When you have a celebrity CEO and $50 billion in market cap, a lot of things can happen for free. But Tesla never was really profitable.
GRANT WILLIAMS: While industry stalwarts record massive profits every single year, the only time Tesla has reported consecutive net income in its 16 years of existence was during the last two quarters of 2018. Tesla loses money and regularly makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.
REPORTER: Breaking news on Tesla-- it is cutting about 9% of its workforce.
REPORTER: Tesla is now facing a criminal investigation over statements made by their CEO's Elon Musk.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Even good news for Tesla comes with a caveat. The announcement of a much delayed $35,000 Model 3 was supposed to be a milestone, but it came with layoffs and a shift to online sales only.
A week later, the company walked back its plan for store closures, perhaps not realizing leases can't be reneged upon unless a company is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. For any ordinary company, the kind of bad press which has cascaded down on Tesla in recent months would be fatal. Tesla, however, is anything but ordinary.
CHARLEY GRANT: If Tesla went bankrupt the stock would probably go up that day.
I think Tesla is hilariously overpriced. You'll find other people who think Tesla is undervalued at $300 a share. Some people think it's worth $4,000.
GRANT WILLIAMS: The passion felt by the bears is counterbalanced by an unswerving faith in Elon Musk from the bulls.
CATHIE WOOD: I have no concerns about Tesla's viability. Tesla is delighting the consumer. This is a replay of Amazon. I lived through Amazon through its ups and downs. Years where they weren't earning money and questions about viability. Meaning, the traditional retailers were going to kill Amazon. If you were looking through the lens of disruptive innovation, you knew that wasn't true.
ROSS GERBER: You just push this button here.
GRANT WILLIAMS: My opinion of Tesla is well-documented, but I wanted to give one of the company's most ardent supporters the chance to change my mind.
ROSS GERBER: What for? It's pretty cool, my kids love it.
GRANT WILLIAMS: And that included the autopilot function.
ROSS GERBER: So I'll switch it on now. So it's on. OK, and I'm done. Feet come up, I don't need to do anything. I can play on my phone. I can do whatever I want. This could be one of the more challenging intersections in LA, the 405 and the 10. And you see people keep cutting me off.
Do I look nervous? Do I look like I even need to grab the steering wheel? No, because the truth of the matter is right now the car sees-- nobody's done anything dumb enough that I need to take it off yet.
MARK SPIEGEL: This is a car that has great handling, great car. But technology that nobody's even come close to even touching. It's the iPhone of cars.
ROSS GERBER: And maybe you want to listen to some music. You can switch between music channels, podcasts, whatever. There's the charging screen. So it shows your battery level.
ROSS GERBER: You know, we could debate this all night, but in 10 years, everybody's going to have a car that looks like this. It might not be made my Tesla, but they'll all be like this.
GRANT WILLIAMS The competition is well on its way. The Jaguar I-PACE has debuted to rave reviews. Porsche is promoting its Taycan and plans to make half its vehicles electric or hybrid by 2025.
Audis' e-tron will be on the market by the second quarter of 2019. Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, every luxury car brand will be introducing fleets of electric vehicles.
But the key to Tesla's future is to be able to deliver mass market, affordable luxury.
ROSS GERBER: It's faster than almost every car on the road. Which is pretty funny for a $45,000 car. It looks great. And that's something a lot of people don't value. They don't understand, oh, the I3, or, oh this or that. I don't want to be seen in a Volt. I'm not getting in a Volt for anything.
WOMARK SPIEGEL: Tesla has 80% share of the electric vehicle market in the United States. It's in the top five selling of all cars, gas powered or electric. The consumer is speaking very loudly here.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Tesla's Model 3 was one of the best selling luxury vehicles in 2018. But the road to making it encapsulated everything the bears say is wrong with Tesla.
It's big reveal was in 2016. And despite some creative marketing from Musk, the Model 3 landed about $10,000 above his promised price. According to Musk himself, selling a $35,000 version would be fatal to the company.
Along the way, hundreds of thousands of people signed up for the wait list, each forking over a $1,000 deposit, while Tesla experienced massive production delays.
ELON MUSK: Welcome, welcome, welcome to production to hell.
GRANT WILLIAMS: They were even forced to build a giant tent the size of two football fields at the factory in Fremont, California to use as a third production line, raising questions on quality for TSLA-Q.
MACHINE PLANET: The tent was my aha moment.
Yeah, that was the moment when I realized we we're not dealing with a serious company. We were dealing with a desperate individual who had set performance metrics that he couldn't meet and was now in a situation that he couldn't completely control.
GRANT WILLIAMS: In February of 2019, the Model 3 finally reached its promised $35,000 price. However, praise from the critics had started to falter.
REPORTER: Tesla shares falling almost 4% after Consumer Reports says it's no longer going to recommend the Model 3 due to reliability issues.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Online you'll find Tesla owners complaining about their cars not functioning in frigid temperatures, about fenders falling off, and serious battery degradation.
VOICE: I should be getting 120 kilowatts. Only getting 31.
GRANT WILLIAMS: But for every unhappy customer there are Tesla consumers who are extremely vocal, almost evangelical about how much they love their cars.
WOMAN: Wow, you can get in that little space? I don't believe you can get in that little small space.
WOMAN 2: He's got plenty of space there.
Oh, shucks now! Hush your mouth and go slap somebody. You gotta to buy me one of these.
GRANT WILLIAMS: The Model 3 has become a bit of an infatuation for TSLA-Q. And the building of that tent was the catalyst for what's become known as the SAF, The Shorty Air Force, a way to try and verify Tesla's official production numbers.
MACHINE PLANET: Folks were analyzing Apple Maps satellite photos and Google Earth satellite photos. And I watched them doing this, and I thought, wow, this stuff is really old. I mean, at the very best case, they were looking at aerial photographs or satellite photographs that were weeks old and possibly even months old.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Machine Planet flies regular sorties over Tesla's Fremont facility to document the company's progress, or otherwise. Other members monitor parking lots all over the country, where it's reported that hundreds of seemingly brand new Teslas are mysteriously parked.
MARK SPIEGEL: There are 150 Model 3s sitting in this lot.
GRANT WILLIAMS: To TSLA-Q, this looks like a plot to hide what would be a dangerous lack of demand.
LINETTE LOPEZ: TSLA-Q can get a little out of hand. Sometimes it assigns malicious intent to things that at Tesla could also just be incompetence. There is a gap between Model 3 deliveries and registrations.
According to what former employees have told me, it does not have a good tracking system for its registration. And its delivery system is just wrong. But it isn't necessarily because Tesla is trying to keep more cars on its balance sheet to borrow against.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Tesla's press office is famously tight lipped, which doesn't help dissipate speculation. And Musk himself, has become notorious for making promises that have more often than not failed to become reality, especially when it comes to deadlines.
Consequently, TSLA-Q members are constantly on the prowl for every bit of Tesla news. They've launched a website, produce podcasts, talked to the media, and make very detailed charts, lots and lots of charts. Their zeal to prove Elon Musk and his company are failing is impressive.
CHARLEY GRANT: They've got people tracking his private jet. You know, where's he going now. Where's he going now? And this is not a way to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle, but it might be a way to get an edge on your big bet on Wall Street.
LINETTE LOPEZ: I have never seen anything like TSLA-Q in my seven years reporting about Wall Street.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Tesla fan-boys are vindicated by each new announcement from Elon Musk. The TSLA-Q are always there to provide a counterargument. If Musk says Tesla will produce more cars, TSLA-Q questions demand. When Musk tweets before a bond payment is due, the doubters see stock pumping. The unveiling of Tesla's newest Model Y is met with questions about where and how it will be made.
ELON MUSK: The Model Y--
LAWRENCE FOSSI: There's nothing, they don't have a factory to build a Model Y in. They don't have enough money to develop it or buy the equipment for it. They need billions of dollars right now. At some point even the stupidest investors wake up and stop pouring money down a rat hole.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Tesla has $12 billion in debt and Elon Musk has said multiple times that the company has been on the verge of bankruptcy. Which leads us to another big TSLA-Q fixation.
LINETTE LOPEZ: Back in 2016, the company acquired SolarCity, which was helmed by Elon's cousin. At that time the company was basically bankrupt, but Elon convinced his shareholders that if they bought the company in an all stock deal, then it would turn Tesla into this conglomerate dedicated to renewable energy. Unfortunately, SolarCity also had $700 million in debt.
MARK SPIEGEL: The solar roof shingles that Elon showed off to sell people on the merger in 2016 still have not reached the market. And it's almost three years now. So now SolarCity's debt is Tesla's problem.
LAWRENCE FOSSI: Talk about an aha moment. If you weren't already suspicious of Musk before the SolarCity acquisition, that should have been all the evidence you needed that he will act in his own best interest and no one else's interests. Because that was indefensively harmful to Tesla.
TESLA CHARTS: I frankly think when the test of story is over that will be the Waterloo for Elon Musk.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Musk may be the driving force behind Tesla, but some also see him as its biggest liability.
CHARLEY GRANT: Brilliant, impulsive, reckless.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Tweeting with abandon and some loose facts have landed Musk in hot water with regulators. In August 2018, he said he was taking the company private and had funding secured. It turned out he didn't.
SEC REPRESENTATIVE: Today the SEC filed securities fraud charges against Elon Musk, the chairman and CEO of Tesla Motors.
CHARLEY GRANT: He settled securities fraud charges and can't deny-- you know, under the settlement, can't deny that he has committed securities fraud. Impulsiveness is not just doing something rash. And when you run a public company, that can get you in real trouble.
SEC REPRESENTATIVE: Neither celebrity status nor reputation as a technological innovator provide an exemption from the Federal Securities Laws.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Tesla and Musk reached a settlement with the SEC, which required both parties to pay a $20 million fine. Musk was forced to step down as the company's chairman and it was mandated that someone within the company approve any tweets about Tesla, but that apparently hasn't happened.
REPORTER: Federal Regulators want Tesla CEO Elon Musk held in contempt of court. They say he sent a tweet that violates a settlement restricting his public statements that could affect Tesla stock's performance.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Musk and the SEC are now engaged in a legal battle over free speech, executive accountability for misleading statements, and potential market manipulation.
ELON MUSK: I think I've never seen so many cameras my entire life. There's cameras everywhere.
MARK SPIEGEL: Elon Musk is the most untrustworthy pathologically lying large cap CEO I think I've ever seen.
CATHIE WOOD: If Steve Jobs had, had access to Twitter I guarantee you, we would have been-- you would've been asking the same questions. He declared thermonuclear war against Google when it released Android. And he said he was going to spend every single dollar of cash that Apple had to destroy Android. That would have been all over Twitter.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Increasingly, however, calls for Musk to step aside are getting louder.
STUART VARNEY: How much longer can this go on before Musk is shunted to one side?
JIM CRAMER: This guy's going to attack the SEC? How about removing him?
MACHINE PLANET: Elon Musk as a fake engineer, and a fake scientist, and a fake prophet, and a fake visionary.
CATHIE WOOD: He's our Thomas Edison. He's-- He's brilliant. He's an innovator, an inventor, a Renaissance man in many ways. I mean there's-- I think people can't relate to him because there are not many people like him.
GRANT WILLIAMS: Elon Musk is reportedly worth over $21 billion and he's been at the center of more than one globally recognized business.
VOICE: And lift off--
GRANT WILLIAMS: SpaceX is pushing the boundaries for private enterprise in space travel. And while Musk didn't found Tesla, he was the company's first big investor before becoming its CEO. And his other venture, the Boring Company, is testing underground tunnels in Los Angeles, which will, according to Musk, change the future of mass transportation.
Musk has become a cultural icon, making cameos in Hollywood movies and being described as the real life Iron Man. His marriages and dating life lead to headlines