Skip to main content

Elon Musk and his EV company, Tesla, have always been somewhat controversial. Tesla’s not really controversial in terms of its cars, but Musk and his personality certainly have been, especially in the face of his critics. One of Musk’s biggest critics, David Einhorn, has even bet against Musk and Tesla. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of their feud with one another.

Elon Musk CEO of Tesla poses on the red carpet.
Elon Musk CEO of Tesla | TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images

Wall Street and shorts 

David Einhorn is not just any critic however, he’s the founder of a multibillion-dollar hedge fund as well as a short seller, or “short” for short, of Tesla. A short is an investing term for essentially betting against a company. People who short a company, like Einhorn, think that a company will do worse in the near future, and so they’ve put their money where their mouth is and make a bet against that company.

When a company does better than expected, however, like Tesla’s been doing recently, then the short seller will lose money. This can be in the tune of billions of dollars.

In fact, MarketWatch recently reported that Tesla short sellers have lost over $1.4 billion due to Tesla performing better than expected. This is to be expected as Tesla’s continuously selling better than expected.

Elon Musk and David Einhorn’s rivalry 

Not only is Einhorn a notorious Tesla short seller, but he’s also had a rivalry with Musk. Like MarketWatch reported, Einhorn bet against Tesla a while ago, and the two men have been publicly feuding about it.

In 2018, Musk even sent Einhorn pairs of short-shorts as a reference to the fact that Einhorn is short on Tesla. Einhorn, in response, claimed that those shorts were defective, just like Tesla’s cars are. 

Issues with Teslas as well as Tesla’s manufacturing process are why critics like Einhorn think that Tesla will fail in the future. But, so long as Tesla continues to perform well, then Tesla’s short sellers will continue to lose money. However, shorts in Wall Street are a long term thing, as Einhorn recently mentioned in a letter. 

Einhorn claimed that Tesla has a lot of internal and financial problems, and that’s why he and his company will win in the end. He claims that Tesla has a $6 billion deficit and that Tesla’s customers actually owe the company over $1 billion.

However, it should be noted that this letter was sent in response to Tesla performing better than expected in October, according to MarketWatch.

Elon Musk’s nickname for David Einhorn

Musk, as usual, fired back against Einhorn. Musk, in a tweet, called Einhorn a unicorn, which is actually the German translation for “Einhorn”, according to CNBC.

He then talked about how Einhorn’s company is doing worse than expected, a fact that MarketWatch also talked about. Musk also called himself “Treelon,” as a reference to the million trees that he pledged to donate. 

This nickname for Einhorn works in two great ways. First and off the bat, using the actual German translation of Einhorn’s name is simply accurate and it’s an indisputable fact. But, more deeply, by calling Einhorn a unicorn and then talking about “imaginary problems,” Musk is saying that the things that Einhorn are worried about, much like unicorns, simply doesn’t exist. 

That said, Tesla’s cars do have issues that are real and that Tesla is working to solve or improve on. And while these issues do exist, it’s not that different from other automakers who have similar issues with their cars and trucks.

Whether or not these issues will continue to plague Tesla and actually hurt the company is unknown. But as it stands now, it seems as if Musk has the upper-hand as Tesla is performing much better than Einhorn may want it to perform.