Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Classic Media Response

One of the eight factors of a fear culture is the media.  While I provide a lot more information related to each of the eight factors in my upcoming book I couldn't let this great example pass by without highlighting it.

You may have heard about the recent fire in a Tesla Model S.  While a car fire should not be a market moving occurrence, this one had a little more meaning.

The backstory;

Tesla has been on a roll lately both in the stock market and in the court of public opinion with the very successful launch of its Model S exceeding sales expectations and the future looking bright for the company as it tries to introduce new lower priced models that can be produced on a more massive scale.  However, the lingering question about the Tesla engineering has been the battery pack and what safety issues may be caused by a battery pack exploding.

This past week we finally found out and within minutes of the story hitting the wire (the embedded video has 3 million views and there are others with a simple Youtube search with similar view numbers) the stock plummeted losing over 10% of its value within a matter of a couple days.  The cry starting to build quickly towards a media statement on the accident but nothing came from Elon swift enough for those in the market and the stock continued to sink.

Then on Friday Elon broke the silence with a master stroke of genius regarding the incident.  He released a blog post detailing the accident along with the emergency response.  You can read the full response at this link but a few key aspects of the response:

1. Elon highlighted the safety features - onboard alert system directing the driver and occupants to exit the car and the firewalls between battery packs preventing the fire from reaching the cabin of the car.
2. Quarter inch armor plating around the battery pack compared to a thin metal sheet protecting the gas tank in a conventional automobile.
3. He contrasted the stats so far with that of a typical combustion engine with a conclusion that is 5 times safer in a Tesla than a typical gasoline powered engine.
4. Provided a copy of the email exchange with the customer where they reinforced that they were very pleased with how everything performed and that they were even more sold on the product

While there was a pressure to rush out a response (even highlighted by the Forbes article linked) to attempt to stem the tide of fear that was building around the company and its engineering they were methodical in gathering all the facts even if it took extra time.  They created a clear, detailed description which added credibility to the message, and then turned a potential negative into a massive selling opportunity by contrasting it with the competition - the traditional automobile.

In full disclosure I just purchased less than 100 shares of Tesla on Monday, but this has been a perfect example of a brave and courageous media response in a situation where fear could have dictated a rushed and inadequate response that would have only created more questions.  It came at a cost as the shares (as of this writing) have not recovered their pre-accident price but they have a long-term perspective not driven by the very fickle short-term whims of the market.

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