2018 has not exactly been a great year so far for Elon Musk's Tesla Inc. In fact, the company's problems are becoming so concerning to industry analysts that the future viability of the company is increasingly in question.
Yesterday, Tesla announced a voluntary recall of 123,000 of its Model S cars to fix power steering bolts that have experienced excessive corrosion. According to the company, the recall affects only Model S cars manufactured before April 2016, and Model 3 and Model X cars are not affected.
In an email to Tesla customers, the company said:
"If the bolts fail, the driver is still able to steer the car, but increased force is required due to loss or reduction of power assist. This primarily makes the car harder to drive at low speeds and for parallel parking, but does not materially affect control at high speed, where only small steering wheel force is needed."
This is not the first recall for Tesla vehicles, but it is the company's largest so far. In 2017 Tesla recalled 53,000 Model X and Model S vehicles due to problems with the parking brake, and in 2015, the company recalled 90,000 Model S cars because of defective seatbelts.
But while yesterday's recall of Tesla Model S cars is bad news for the company and investors, there's more. As reported by Minda Zetlin, there are concerns that Tesla may run out of cash within a year due to the company's failure to meet production targets for its new, lower-priced Model 3 car. According to Minda, based on these concerns, Moody's downgraded Tesla's credit rating from B3 to B2 and its outlook from "stable" to "negative." In addition, the price of Tesla's stock has plunged from $330 a share at the beginning of March to $266 yesterday.
Says Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelly Blue Book:
"There is a huge part of Tesla that is simply presentation and not substance, and Elon is a master at messaging. The problem is the reality is starting to stack up, and that's a reality of accidents the cars have had, quality issues, and massive misses on Model 3 production numbers. You add all that up and there's a real question about whether this company can deliver what it promises."
None of this is good news for Tesla, its employees and investors, and the company's customers. And the bad news keeps coming. Just last week a Model X crashed in Mountain View, California--killing the driver and severely damaging the car. According to a Tesla blog post about the accident, "We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash." The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash and whether the car's semi-autonomous Autopilot system was at fault.
Of course, this isn't the first time that naysayers have put a big target on Tesla and its long-term viability. One thing I've learned is that you can never count Elon Musk--or his company--out.