The Economy Is Facing Recession. Tesla and Musk Are Undaunted.

Many tech groups, anticipating a recession, have begun to implement austerity.

For many months now, tech companies have been preparing for the economic downturn to worsen.

The CEOs of various tech flagships have warned about what Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg estimated would be the “one of the worst downturns that we’ve seen in recent history.”

They implemented drastic cost-cutting measures. For the first time since its creation in 2004, Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms  (META) – Get Meta Platforms Inc. Report, will downsize

“I had hoped the economy would have more clearly stabilized by now,” Zuckerberg told employees on Sept. 29. “But from what we’re seeing, it doesn’t yet seem like it has, so we want to plan somewhat conservatively.”

The boss added that Meta will be “somewhat smaller” by the end of 2023.

Big Tech Cut Costs

Alphabet  (GOOGL) – Get Alphabet Inc. Report, Google’s parent, is slowing hiring. It has also cut several employee perks, travel and entertainment budgets. 

Amazon  (AMZN) – Get Inc. Report froze corporate hiring in its retail division, which includes online and physical stores, its marketplace for third-party sellers and Amazon Prime, its subscription service. And it withdrew more than 10,000 job offers. 

The e-commerce giant founded by Jeff Bezos, now led by CEO Andy Jassy, has decided to end various projects, as TheStreet has reported. Two robotics projects — Canvas and Orca — have been terminated.

Amazon is also ending Aqua, or Advanced Query Accelerator, a service linked to its AWS cloud-computing division. The firm has shut down Amazon Explore, a platform designed to enable everyone to enjoy virtual experiences from their homes.

The cancellation of these projects, part of a vast cost-reduction plan, should result in job cuts. 

“Yep, the probabilities in this economy tell you to batten down the hatches,” Bezos warned on Oct. 18.

In other words, he says people must prepare for a crisis that seems on the horizon. 

Tesla Plows Ahead

Microsoft  (MSFT) – Get Microsoft Corporation Report has once again cut jobs: “Like all companies, we evaluate our business priorities on a regular basis, and make structural adjustments accordingly. We will continue to invest in our business and hire in key growth areas in the year ahead,” a spokesperson told TheStreet.

All these companies fear that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest-rate hikes to fight inflation, which is at its highest in 40 years, will cause a so-called hard landing, or recession, for the economy.

Many top economists, like Harvard’s Larry Summers, say the economy is likely to enter a recession this year or next.

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, warned on Oct. 10 that the U.S. economy would likely enter “in some kind of recession six to nine months from now.”

The economy shrank 1.6% in the first quarter of 2022 and 0.6% in the second.

Tesla doesn’t seem preoccupied with any of this. 

The group will continue to plow ahead, its CEO, Elon Musk, said on Oct. 19.

“To be frank, we’re very pedal to the metal come rain or shine,” the billionaire told analysts during the company’s third quarter earnings’ call. “So, we are not reducing our production in any meaningful way, recession or not recession.”

The serial entrepreneur estimates that electric vehicles currently represent only 1% of the global car fleet. He sees no reason to slow their production when consumer interest has never been so strong. The same consumers are further affected by the current energy crisis.

“I think the public at large realizes that the world is moving toward electric vehicles and that it’s foolish to actually buy a new gasoline car at this point because the residual value of that gasoline car is going to be very low,” Musk explained.

“So, I think we have to be in a very good spot. But I wouldn’t say it’s recession proof, but it’s certainly risk — recession resilient because basically, it has — people both have in large part made the decision to move away from gasoline cars to electric cars.”

‘Real Opportunity’

Tesla Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn adopted the same optimistic and reassuring tone.

“I think where our cash balance is, what our forecasted cash generation is, where our margins are as a company, I mean, we can withstand quite a lot of downside before we would have to dig into our capital plans, Supercharger expansion, product lineup,” Kirkhorn said.

He said the business “has done quite well over the last handful of quarters.”

He sees the current environment as “a real opportunity.”

“I think, for the company to press forward, I mean, most aggressively, as Elon has mentioned.”

“Let’s say 2023 is a brutal recession year. Even then, we generate meaningful cash,” Musk added.

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