Three point eight.
From the first day of trading in 2018 to the last, that was the final percentage difference in Tesla’s share price. Taken on its own, the number is a modest and positive gain — and far more fruitful than automakers Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler. It’s a number that suggests a consistent year of upwards momentum for Tesla, steady and diligent like a tugboat, even keeled and untouched from stormy market seas.
Those two bookends of the stock market calendar — January 2 and December 31 — and the 3.8% gain they produced obfuscates what really happened to Tesla and CEO Elon Musk in 2018.
It wasn’t quiet. It wasn’t calm. It wasn’t constant or consistent. Tesla wasn’t a tugboat in 2018; it was a whipsaw.
The year was a dizzying ride that took Tesla shareholders and fans, critics, car owners, and employees, the media and Musk himself to extreme highs and troubling lows — sometimes flip-flopping twice or more in a few days time.
And it was exhausting because so much of it seemed self-inflicted and avoidable.
The chart illustrates the ups and downs of Tesla’s share price along with specific highlights. But there were so many more.
As Tesla floundered early in the year, hamstrung by production hell of its Model 3, Musk’s company SpaceX made history when it completed a test of its Falcon Heavy rocket, the heavy-lift orbital vehicle that can carry twice the weight of its closest competition in active operation.
As production hell dragged on through the first quarter and into the second, Musk locked in a performance-based package that granted him $2.6 billion in stock options over 10 years. Moody’s would downgrade Tesla’s credit rating to negative from stable and Musk would make an untimely April Fool’s Day joke that the company was “bankwupt.”