There's no denying that Tesla is still operating at a loss more than a decade after its founding and that it will have to raise billions of dollars to help pay for the Model 3, but is the entire company just one big 'Ponzi scheme'? No, unless you're part of the crack team of bullshitters working at Devonshire Research Group.
In a new report issued by the firm (which previously alleged in a report so fatally flawed that we're not going to link to it that Tesla cars are significantly more environmentally damaging than fossil fuel-powered internal combustion cars) they look into the financial structure of Tesla.
Tesla is raising money to make actual products. That's the opposite of a Ponzi scheme.
Here's how their argument boils down: Tesla is raising money today to pay back past investors, and will raise money in the future to pay off today's investors, i.e. a Ponzi scheme (also known as a pyramid scheme). And while Tesla is in fact raising money today and may do the same in the future and has numerous investors, including the owners of its 146 million shares, there's a distinct difference between Tesla and an actual Ponzi scheme: Tesla is raising money to make actual products with the goal of selling them for a profit.
Marks caught up in Ponzi schemes are promised profits and the scheme only works so long as the moron running it can keep getting increasing numbers of new investors to cover the promised profits of previous investors. But there's never a product produced, other than these false profits and the crushed finances of those in the web of financial lies. Ponzi schemes never work, just ask Bernie Madoff.
Hidden under Devonshire's purposefully inflammatory language is a good point: Tesla's huge need for capital for infrastructure investments and the Model 3 ramp up do put the company in a precarious position. If the Model 3 flops then Tesla will be in incredibly poor shape, and by extension so will its investors. And Tesla does have a history of delivering vehicles late and over budget, though they swear they've learned from debacles like the Model X. And it is true that due to the high cost of current Tesla cars that the tax credits buyers receive disproportionally go to the wealthy (although that argument could be made about almost every mass market EV today — the Nissan Leaf starts at an also not-cheap $29,000), but that's simply how the government chose to structure these tax incentives.
To repeat: a Ponzi scheme is all about passing money from new investors to old investors. Tesla is about taking investor money to produce an actual product with the goal of turning a profit for all investors from that sale. There are risks, and it could go belly-up if Tesla botches the Model 3, but to compare Tesla to an investment scam is just ludicrous.
At least most Tesla investors aren't swayed by such idiocy — shares of TSLA closed up yesterday when the report was issued and again today.