Yesterday’s four-hour Tesla PR marathon, rather than exciting investors as it was supposed to, ended up a snoozefest.
For an indicator of how poorly it went, just look at Tesla’s stock prices after the market closed. It started falling as Musk and company took to the stage and hasn’t really looked back – TSLA dropped nearly 8 percent in pre-market trading.
There’s a multitude of reasons why investors may not have been impressed with Tesla’s “Master Plan 3” or any of the other tidbits of news inserted between hyperbole. It also could have been Musk’s unusually low energy level that made it look like his Twitter troubles and all those other lawsuits were beginning to catch up with the 51-year-old, who ceded much of his time on stage to other Tesla leaders.
Regardless, the good in the Tesla Investor Day 2023 presentation didn’t hold a candle to the glow coming from all the stuff they didn’t mention, and the previous Master Plan that has become a thorn in the side of the electric automaker.
Master Plan 3: Great global goals, no devilish details
Tesla describes Master Plan 3 as its “path to a fully renewable energy future” for Earth – an ambitious goal, but one the company said was more feasible than it seems.
“There is a clear path to a sustainable energy Earth. It doesn’t require destroying natural habitats, or for us to be austere,” Musk said. “We could support a civilization much bigger than Earth’s sustainably on Earth, and I’m shocked by how few people realize this.”
The company’s slide deck, as shared on Twitter, claims that only a third of the dirty energy generated on Earth ends up being consumed in a useful manner. Tesla estimates that transitioning to green energy would require an additional 240 terawatt hours of energy storage, 30TW of new solar or wind generation, and an additional $10 trillion to break free of fossil fuels.
Contrary to what some may assume about the footprint of solar power, Tesla and Musk claimed that only 0.2 percent of the Earth’s surface would need to be dedicated to the facilities.
Tesla said its sustainable energy transition plan involves eliminating internal combustion vehicle fleets, using heat pumps in homes, implementing high-temp heat delivery and storage for industry, transitioning to electric planes and boats, and “powering everything with renewable generation and stationary storage.”
But how are we going to get there? Sorry – no details to share yet, said Musk. Those will be published in a “detailed white paper with all of our assumptions and calculations” that Musk said would “be released by Tesla shortly.”
What about new cars?
As part of its Investor Day reveals, Tesla said it wanted to drastically reduce manufacturing cost and complexity in order to create cheaper cars, which it would do at the new manufacturing facility planned for Mexico.
That process would involve designing a new generation of power train that would eliminate the need for rare earth materials, cut silicon carbide supply needs by 75 percent, shrink factory footprints by half, and be compatible with any type of battery chemistry.
The new car rumored to be attached to the more efficient power train was under wraps at the presentation – literally under a sheet in the slide deck – and Tesla said it wasn’t going to share any new vehicle plans yet.
When asked during the Q&A for details about the new vehicle, Musk said Tesla would “be jumping the gun if we answer your question” and that more details would be forthcoming at a later date.
Full Self-Driving claims are Full Self-Deception
Hyperbolic language and carts showing up before horses isn’t unusual in a Tesla presentation, but what’s less typical is the company including Full Self-Driving safety statistics that miss the point.
“In the last 12 months, a Tesla with FSD Beta engaged experienced an airbag-deployed crash about every 3.2 M miles, which is ~5x safer than the most recently available US average of 0.6M miles/police-reported crash,” Tesla said in a tweet accompanying some of its presentation slides.
But break that down a bit and it’s meaningless. FSD collisions in which airbags are deployed aren’t comparable to manually operated vehicles involved in an accident in which police are called. Airbags aren’t meant to deploy in all situations, and any number of those police-reported accidents may have occurred on surface streets, while most use of FSD and Autopilot is on freeways, where accident rates are far lower.
Tesla also did not address the legal issues around Autopilot and FSD.
On February 1, Tesla admitted it handed FSD and Autopilot documentation to investigators pursuing a criminal case against the company due to the high number of fatalities linked to the system.
An unrelated investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that FSD Beta software deployed to 362,758 cars needed to be recalled for safety reasons – namely that it may not be behaving safely around intersections. The NHTSA previously determined that Autopilot was involved in 70 percent of driver-assist accidents.
As part of the over-the-air recall patch being deployed to FSD Beta customers, Tesla said it was pausing additional FSD Beta rollouts until it could address the safety issues.
A group of Tesla shareholders also sued the company this week, alleging the company’s statements around the safety of Autopilot and FSD amounted to securities fraud, again, because the claims inflated stock value. Investors say losses they’ve incurred are due directly to those claims, and they hold Musk responsible.
The deuce bites back
In 2016, Musk shared “Master Plan, Part Deux,” which included four goals for Tesla since it had mostly met its original goals of selling cars: build solar roofs with “seamlessly integrated battery storage,” expand Tesla’s EV market to “all major segments,” build a self-driving system 10 times safer than manual driving, and turn Tesla vehicles into a source of passive income for owners.
Tesla purchased solar roofing company Solar City in 2016 and folded it into the company as Tesla Solar. Its panels have since been linked to fires at multiple WalMart stores in the US, with the retailer alleging in legal filings that Tesla Solar technicians are “incompetent”.
Tesla’s only expansion outside of consumer sedans has been the Tesla Semi, an electric truck which has been less than successful and has been spotted breaking down around the country after having just hit the roads. The Cybertruck, which still has yet to launch, will reportedly be coming sometime this year, the most recent predictions at Investor Day indicated.
Musk also said that Tesla owners would be able to add their cars to a shared Tesla fleet that would allow them to be used as self-driving taxis when not in use; this most definitely hasn’t happened yet.
As for the goal of developing FSD tech 10 times safer than human drivers … that’s been the dream for some time, hasn’t it? Despite claims in yesterday’s presentation that Tesla is halfway to that 10x goal, critics have their doubts, and even prevailing against every legal challenge won’t change that for Musk or Tesla investors.
As of writing, the markets have opened and Tesla stock is climbing from its 8 percent premarket drop; it’s now down around 6 percent from where it was before the company tried to inject some energy into its investors. ®