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Tesla 2023 Shareholder Meeting: Musk Talks Cybertruck, Economy, Advertising

Tesla CEO Elon Musk addressed shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on Tuesday, predicting the economy would pick up after 12 months and promising the company would deliver production Cybertrucks later this year.

Highlights included:

  • CEO Elon Musk said Tesla will deliver its first Cybertrucks this year, and should be able to deliver 250,000 to 500,000 a year once production has started. He said he’ll drive a Cybertruck on a daily basis.
  • The economy will be in the doldrums for the next 12 months, and many companies will go bankrupt, but Tesla will be well positioned for the long run.
  • The Model Y will be the “No. 1 selling car on earth this year”
  • Tesla may reconsider its long stance against traditional advertising: “We’ll try out a little advertising and see how it goes.”
  • Tesla plans to produce a new kind of drive unit, which Musk said will require less silicon carbide than prior drive trains, and no rare earth elements. Tesla will also switch to a new, low voltage architecture in its cars which should require less copper.
  • JB Straubel, former Tesla CTO and current leader of e-waste recycling company Redwood Materials, was voted onto the board as an independent director.

Shares rose about 1% after hours during the event.

During the Q&A session, an attendee dressed like a robot with a cowboy hat, asked Musk if Tesla would build an RV or a camper. Musk said the company doesn’t plan to build an RV at this time, but the forthcoming Cybertruck could be converted into an RV or a camper.

Responding to a question about his $44 billion takeover of social media service Twitter, Musk said it was a “short-term distraction” and said he had to do some “major open-heart surgery” to ensure its survival, then noted that he was excited to have former NBC Universal advertising executive Linda Yaccarino joining the company to become its new CEO.

Another attendee asked Musk if he would reconsider Tesla’s long-standing stance on traditional advertising. Historically, the company has relied on word of mouth, influencer marketing and other nontraditional marketing and advertising to get the word out about its products and their best attributes.

Musk said on Tuesday, “We’ll try out a little advertising and see how it goes.”

Straubel added to board, Optimus touted

Earlier, shareholders voted to add former Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel, who is now the CEO of Redwood Materials, to the automaker’s board of directors. Redwood Materials recycles electronic waste and batteries, and last year struck a multibillion-dollar deal with Tesla supplier Panasonic.

After the shareholder vote, CEO Elon Musk kicked off his portion of the meeting with a commitment to conduct a third-party audit of Tesla’s cobalt supply chain, namely to ensure there is no child labor within any of Tesla’s cobalt suppliers.

Cobalt is a critical ingredient for production of batteries that go into Tesla’s electric cars and backup battery packs used at homes and for utility-scale energy projects. “Even for the small amount of cobalt that we do us, we will make sure six weeks til Sunday that no child labor is being exploited,” Musk said to the cheers of investors in attendance in person.

Later in his presentation, Musk boasted about the company’s energy storage business and said growth in the sales of “big batteries” was faster than growth in the company’s core automotive segment.

Back in 2017, Musk unveiled a “next gen” Tesla Roadster during an event to announce the Tesla Semi, the company’s class 8 electric truck. On Tuesday, he said the Roadster, which was originally slated for production and deliveries in 2020, may go into production in 2024.

Musk also waxed optimistic about a humanoid robot in development at Tesla, referred to as Optimus. Optimus should be able to run on the same kind of software and computer that Tesla uses to enable advanced driver assistance systems in its cars, Musk said.

The CEO said he believes that “a majority of long-term value” at Tesla will be derived from Optimus eventually.

Distraction concerns

Since the electric vehicle maker’s last annual meeting in August 2022, Tesla’s largest retail shareholder, Leo Koguan, has criticized Musk for selling billions of dollars worth of his Tesla holdings to finance a $44 billion buyout of Twitter.

Koguan, who is a billionaire and founder of the IT services firm SHI International, called for the company’s board to “perform shock therapy to resuscitate stock price,” namely by way of a share buyback late last year.

Some institutional Tesla investors have admonished Musk for being too distracted during his role as Twitter CEO to perform optimally at the helm of Tesla, but Musk said on Tuesday that he expected to spend less time on Twitter going forward than he has in the last six months. They have also criticized the Tesla board, led by Chair Robyn Denholm, for failing to rein him in and protect shareholders’ interests.

An attendee asked Musk about rumors that he is thinking of stepping down from Tesla. Musk said “it ain’t so.”

He added, “I think Tesla’s going to play an important role in AI and AGI and I think I need to oversee that to make sure it’s good,” speaking of artificial general intelligence, which is the idea of a hypothetical intelligent agent. Musk then claimed that Tesla has “by far the most advanced real world AI” of all tech companies today.

Shares in Tesla closed at $228.52 on October 28, 2022, after Musk officially took over Twitter. They closed at $166.52 on May 16, 2023, as the meeting kicked off, and rose about 1% after hours.

At last year’s shareholders meeting, Musk predicted an 18-month recession, teased the possibility of share buybacks, and told investors that electric vehicle business was aiming to produce 20 million vehicles annually by 2030, which he thought would require a dozen factories total with each one producing 1.5 million to 2 million units per year.

Source : CNBC