Tesla shares have declined almost 20% in the last three months, even as the automaker reported a surprisingly profitable third quarter and signaled to Wall Street that it has curtailed its cash burn and could finish 2016 with more money in the bank then expected.
The immediate problem for Tesla is political.
A Trump administration is unlikely to be friendly to electric cars — certainly not as friendly as the Obama administration. Obama was in the White House for almost the entirety of Tesla ascent as both a carmaker and a stock, with Tesla’s IPO taking place in 2010 and the Model S sedan hitting the streets in 2012.
Fortunately, Tesla is far more well established than it was when Obama took office in 2009. CEO Elon Musk’s company will sell a record-number of electric cars in 2016 — probably about 80,000 — and has a market cap of around $30 billion. It can hold on for a while, even if federal policies turn against it. And don’t forget the nearly 400,000 per-orders Tesla has for its forthcoming Model 3 mass-market vehicle.
The worry for the automaker now is that the end of the year and beginning of the next haven’t been happy financial times for the company, historically. Tesla shares have a pattern of sliding through the fourth quarter and continuing their decline into the first, only recovering once it establishes guidance for deliveries for the next year.