Jim Chanos is taking Elon Musk on, and so far Chanos seems to be winning.
Chanos, the founder of Kynikos Associates and legendary short seller, has made bets over the past few months against two of Musk’s major endeavor, SolarCity and Tesla, and both are tumbling.
Tesla dropped 2.8% during trading Monday and is down more than 20% from its recent high on April 6, putting it into bear-market territory.
In October, Chanos questioned the firm’s ability to ramp up production and fulfill orders. The production worries, combined with the company’s diminishing technological advantage over other automakers, convinced Chanos that Tesla couldn’t justify its high-flying stock price.
Chanos followed those comments up with a mention at last week’s Sohn Investment Conference that “a flood of people” had left Tesla in the past few years, and departures by senior management usually spell trouble.
It was reported Wednesday that two of Tesla’s top engineers would leave the company; that same day Musk announced he wanted to ramp up production from 50,000 vehicles a year to 500,000 by 2018, two years ahead of his original plan.
Musk’s other big bet, SolarCity, reported dismal earnings on Monday afternoon, falling short on both profit and guidance expectations. The stock was down by as much as 26% in early trading Tuesday; shares were already down 55% for 2016 before the latest drop. Chanos has been short the stock since mid-2015.
Chanos has been critical of SolarCity’s leasing model for its solar panels, comparing the business practice to subprime lending. He also has said the capital-intensive nature of the business will make it nearly impossible for the company to make money.
SolarCity has recently tried to pivot from growing volumes to reducing costs to make itself more efficient.
It isn’t necessarily that Chanos is going after Musk specifically. He has praised Tesla’s products in the past.
But the short seller sees two of Musk’s big bets as bad business models, and has certainly drawn attention to that fact.