Illustration: Shira Inbar

How Elon Musk Made Tesla the Most Valuable Car Company in the World

After a treacherous two years, Tesla’s shares pop at over $500, making it worth more than GM and Ford combined

Steve LeVine
Published in
4 min readJan 13, 2020

AA little over a decade ago, Tesla came virtually out of nowhere with its battery-driven Roadster. Since then, Tesla has single-handedly energized the creation of a global electric vehicle industry, terrifying traditional automakers who feared being driven out of business by a technological juggernaut.

Today, Tesla shares popped over $500, surging more than 8% after an analyst made an extreme bull case for the stock. They are up about 20% just this year and 174% from a low last May.

Tesla’s share performance reflects a new high point for the company, which at $93 billion is now worth more than GM and Ford combined. It is an astonishing turnaround for Tesla, and again underscores its status as one of the most successful corporate and technological disruptors of the age.

“Tesla is showing strong signs of maturing as a company,” Tony Posawatz, former CEO of EV startup Fisker Automotive and a former senior GM executive, tells Marker. “Their brand is viewed as synonymous with EV while their competition has responded slowly. Their China strategy and execution is particularly interesting given the large EV market there.”

This praise is quite a departure from the last two years, which were awful for Tesla. Its share price tanked as it bled key senior management, including at least two who quit within weeks of joining the company and seeing it from the inside. CEO Elon Musk’s reputation plunged with his company’s, as he smoked marijuana on The Joe Rogan Experience and was charged with alleged securities fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Toward the end of 2018, Musk had to give up his title as chairman and he and the company were fined $40 million by the SEC. Last year, the misery continued. Consumer Reports withdrew its recommendation of the previously heralded mainstream Model 3, and Tesla’s losses piled up.

CEO Elon Musk’s reputation plunged with his company’s, as he was charged with securities fraud by the…



Steve LeVine
Writer for

Editor at Large, Medium, covering the turbulence all around us, electric vehicles, batteries, social trends. Writing The Mobilist. Ex-Axios, Quartz, WSJ, NYT.