Despite some lingering controversy around Tesla's co-founder and chief executive officer Elon Musk, the automaker's shares are up 37 percent in the past three months, and the company was a top performer in the Nasdaq 100 on Monday, even amid steep stock market dips.
If you invested in Tesla in 2010, when it made its initial public offering, that investment would definitely have paid off. A $1,000 investment would be worth more than $21,000 as of Dec. 12, according to CNBC calculations, including price appreciation and dividend gains reinvested.
In September, Musk was forced to step down as chairman of Tesla's board of directors for three years in a deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission after he wrote on Twitter that he was considering taking the company private, and he remains a polarizing figure.
CNBC: Tesla stock as of Dec. 12, 2018
In an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes," Musk said that, while he plans to comply with the settlement, he does not respect the SEC itself. He made no apologies for his recent behavior, including one incident where he appeared to smoke marijuana and drink whiskey on comedian Joe Rogan's podcast, and another where he suggested that a diver in the Thailand cave rescue was a "pedo."
Musk said that he sees himself as "somewhat impulsive" and that he doesn't want to "try to adhere to some CEO template." "I'm just being me," he told CBS. "I was certainly under insane stress and crazy, crazy hours. But the system would have failed if I was truly erratic."
In response to both Musk's behavior and his comments about the SEC, on a recent episode of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," Jim Cramer, host of "Mad Money," said, "This man plays by no rules. He's his own worst enemy. I don't understand why anyone would do this. He clearly thinks he's above the law or he would not 'diss' the agency that he has a plea deal [with]."
Though they have been higher lately, Tesla shares have been volatile this year, reaching a 52-week high in August and falling 36 percent in October.
"It's still a gamble," he added, "and that doesn't mean that the stock price can't go up, but I'm sure as heck not going to sit here and hold my breath while they figure out whether they want to run out of money or actually make some money."
Tepper says he has concerns over the company's management and that its "operational opacity" makes it hard to judge valuations: "There's just too much guesswork that goes into figuring out whether they can make money on a sustainable basis, so we're going to sit on the sidelines until our concerns are addressed here."
Overall, Musk appears to be shrugging off criticism and focused on seizing opportunities. He told "60 Minutes" that Tesla may consider buying factories that General Motors intends to idle in order to ramp up production on projects like its lower-cost Model 3 midsize sedan: "It's possible that we would be interested. If they were going to sell a plant or not use it that we would take it over."
If you're looking to invest in Tesla, or in the stock market in general, expert investors such as Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban and Tony Robbins suggest you start with index funds, which hold every stock in an index, offer low turnover rates, attendant fees and tax bills. They also fluctuate with the market to eliminate the risk of picking individual stocks.
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Video by Mary Stevens