$2.2 Million Fine Levied Against Tesla As Musk’s Downfall Continues

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A South Korean government agency is imposing a fine of $2.2 million (in U.S. dollars) on Tesla, the electric vehicle company led by billionaire Elon Musk.

The fine from the Korea Fair Trade Commission is connected to what amounts to false advertising involving the company failing to inform local consumers of the drop in drivable miles between charges when outside temperatures reach particularly low levels. A Canadian study of electric vehicle performance cited by Reuters apparently connected the lower ranges available between charges as temps plunge to the battery also powering internal heating in the vehicle. At 15 below zero on the Celsius scale, which is five degrees Fahrenheit, that study found the average electric vehicle was at just above half of its previously established driving range between charges, marking a dramatic drop-off.

These details all sound relatively straightforward, but the South Korean authorities imposing a fine on Tesla identified the company’s deceptive advertising as starting in August 2019 and extending until recently. Other issues in Tesla’s representations about the company’s vehicles to South Korean consumers include that the company overstated their vehicles’ “fuel cost-effectiveness compared to gasoline vehicles,” per that government source. Reuters noted Tuesday that on the company website Tesla “does not mention the loss of driving range in sub-zero temperatures.”

Tesla has recently faced other issues, including fluctuations in its stock price on the U.S. market. As of early Tuesday, the company’s share price was down nearly three-fourths from its level seen a year ago. With a substantial portion (estimated at one-third) of Musk’s personal net worth wrapped up in Tesla stock, changes in the company’s market performance could substantially impact his overall holdings. Over a little more than a year, he has lost some $200 billion from his net worth, according to data from Bloomberg. Now at the helm of the social media site Twitter, he continues undercutting his public credibility to many, including with his recent misrepresentations about a confrontation involving someone apparently on his security team at a southern California gas station.

He alleged on Twitter a “crazy stalker” looking for him jumped on the hood of the team member’s car, and in the furor around the incident, in connection to which Elon even posted footage of the alleged stalker, a Twitter account tracking his private jet was booted from the site, he made dramatic pronouncements about the supposed dangers he was facing by those daring to make even the most basic reports about him, and high-profile journalists were suspended from Twitter. There’s actually no evidence the incident, which didn’t even take place near an airport, was connected to the account tracking Musk’s plane, which hadn’t updated in roughly a day, and no footage has apparently emerged — despite multiple sources available — of anybody jumping on a hood. The alleged stalker actually told police the Musk associate followed him into the parking lot and hit him with his car, although no injuries were reported.