Musk Silent on New Tesla Vehicles, but Showcases Succession Plan

The EV maker made no dramatic announcements on its Investor Day, but took the opportunity to show that there was a big talent pool around Elon Musk.

Much ado about nothing.

Elon Musk, the whimsical CEO of Tesla, promised that Tesla Investor Day would be a unique moment in which he intended to make announcements about a “bright” future. 

This statement had raised expectations about this anticipated event on March 1. Investors and Tesla fans began to dream of spectacular announcements and promises, like only the techno king can do. They expected Musk to show off the mass-produced version of the Cybertruck, Tesla’s first-ever pickup truck.

Others anticipated the launch of the Model 2, a $25,000 low-cost vehicle to conquer the masses. This vehicle, analysts say, is key to helping Tesla reach its goal of producing 20 million vehicles per year by 2030. Last year, the Austin, Texas-based group produced 1.37 million cars.

This means that expectations were high for this event which was held in Austin, the headquarters of the carmaker. But for more than three hours, neither Musk nor the Tesla executives, who marched on the podium for this presentation, made a spectacular announcement.

They certainly spoke of an economy dominated by sustainable energy.

‘Product Event’

“We’re trying to convey a message of hope and optimism that is based on actual physics and real calculations,” Musk said in a livestream event. “No, it’s not wishful thinking. Earth can and will move to a sustainable energy economy and will do so in your lifetime.”

But the unveiling of version 3 of Tesla’s famous “Master Plan” has disappointed investors. Because even though Tesla has announced a new vehicle manufacturing platform, New Gen vehicle, supposed to reduce production costs by up to 50%, the automaker has given no visual of this platform. 

It also refused to say whether it will be implemented in the current Tesla factories. The only thing we know about this platform, which will enable cars to be manufactured differently, is that it will be implemented in the group’s new factory to be built in Monterrey City, Mexico. 

For the rest, Musk declined to answer.

“I have a few follow ups on the next gen vehicle. First, when do you think we’ll get a look at it?” an analyst asked Musk during the question and answer session. “Maybe a prototype second, are there any details that you think you can share in terms of the size, the content, the performance? And then third, I think you mentioned that you would produce it in other plants in addition to Mexico. Should we take that to mean that you can launch it at an existing plant before you’re finished constructing the new plant in Mexico?”

Musk, who usually doesn’t mind answering questions, decided not to answer these.

“I think we’ll actually have to probably decline that answer,” the billionaire said. 

He then announced that Tesla “will have a proper sort of product event but we’ll be jumping the gun if we’re to answer your questions.”

Basically, nothing to report. The billionaire and his lieutenants spent nearly four hours talking about how they intended to reduce costs and make their operations more efficient. Nothing about the next-generation vehicle platform and nothing about the car or cars that will be built there. 

A Parade of Executives

In fact, no spectacular headlines. 

It is no surprise that Tesla’s stock tumbled almost 6% in electronic trading after the close on Wall Street.

Tesla, on the other hand, wanted to take the opportunity to show that there was a large reservoir of talent around Musk. This seems like a response to criticism from some shareholders and investors who believe that, without Musk, Tesla would be lost. About 16 executives shared the podium with the billionaire. Tom Zhu, the company’s manufacturing leader, revealed that Tesla had produced 4 million cars as of March 1.

“It took us 12 years to build the first million, and about 18 months to the second million. The third million, 11 months. Then less than 7 months to build the 4 millionth,” Zhu said.

The executive, who has run Tesla operations in China, also answered a question, directed to Musk, about how the carmaker can grow its market share in the country.

“As long as you offer a product with value at affordable price you don’t have to worry about demand,” Zhu said. “We try everything to cut costs.”

The executives’ parade prompted some vocal retail shareholders, like Ross Gerber, to say that Tesla was presenting the succession plan to Musk.

“Looks like we found out who is second in command for production. Tom Zhu is now head of global production. So it seems like Drew, Zach and Tom are the succession plan. #tesla $tsla,” Gerber posted on Twitter.

“Drew” is Drew Baglino, the Senior Vice President of Powertrain and Energy Engineering at Tesla, while “Zach” is Zach Kirkhorn, the Chief Financial Officer.

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