Tesla Shareholder Meeting 2023: Musk talks Cybertruck, economics and advertising

  • Tesla held its 2023 annual shareholder meeting in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday.
  • Among other things, shareholders voted to add Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel, formerly Tesla’s CTO, to the company’s board of directors as an independent director.
  • CEO Elon Musk also revealed that the company will conduct external audits of its cobalt supply chain to ensure there is no child labor in it.

In an aerial view, Tesla’s corporate headquarters is seen on January 3, 2023 in Travis County, Texas.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk addressed shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on Tuesday, predicting that the economy will rebound after 12 months, and promising that the company will bring Cybertrucks into production later this year.

Highlights include:

  • CEO Elon Musk said Tesla will deliver its first Cybertrucks this year, and will be able to deliver 250,000 to 500,000 annually once production begins. He said he would drive an e-truck on a daily basis.
  • The economy will be in recession for the next 12 months, many companies will go bankrupt, but Tesla will be well off in the long run.
  • The Model Y will be the “number one selling car on earth this year”
  • Tesla may reconsider its longstanding stance against traditional advertising: “We’ll try a few ads and see how that goes.”
  • Tesla plans to produce a new type of drive unit, which Musk said will require less silicon carbide than previous drive trains, and not require rare earth elements. Tesla will also be moving to a new, lower-voltage architecture in its cars that should require less copper.
  • JB Straubel, former CEO of Tesla and current leader of e-waste recycling company Redwood Materials, has been voted onto the board as an independent director.

Shares rose about 1% after hours during the event.

During the question-and-answer session, an attendee dressed as a robot with a cowboy hat asked Musk if Tesla would build an RV or camper. Musk said the company doesn’t plan to build an RV at this time, but that the upcoming Cybertruck could be converted into an RV or camper.

Asked about his $44 billion acquisition of social networking service Twitter, Musk said it was a “short-term distraction” and said he had to have some “major open-heart surgery” to ensure its survival, then indicated that he was. Excited that former NBC Universal advertising director Linda Yaccarino is joining the company as its new CEO.

An attendee asked Musk if he would reconsider Tesla’s longstanding stance on traditional advertising. Historically, the company has relied on word of mouth, influencer marketing, and other unconventional marketing and advertising to get information about its products and their best features.

On Tuesday, Musk said, “We’ll try a few ads and see how that goes.”

Earlier, shareholders voted to add former chief technology officer JB Straubel, who is now CEO of Redwood Materials, to the automaker’s board. Redwood Materials recycles electronic waste and batteries, and last year struck a multi-billion dollar deal with Tesla supplier Panasonic.

After the shareholder vote, CEO Elon Musk began his part of the meeting with a commitment to conduct a third party audit of Tesla’s cobalt supply chain, namely to ensure that there are no child labor within any of Tesla’s cobalt suppliers.

Cobalt is an important ingredient for producing the batteries that go into Tesla electric cars and backup battery packs used in homes and utility-scale power projects. “Even for the small amount of cobalt we use, we’re going to make sure we don’t exploit child labor for the six weeks through Sunday,” Musk said to cheers from investors present in person.

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

Back in 2017, Musk unveiled the “next-generation” Tesla Roadster during an event to announce the Tesla Semi, the company’s Series 8 electric truck. He said on Tuesday that the Roadster, which was originally scheduled for production and delivery in 2020, could go into production in 2024.

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

The CEO said he believes “the majority of the long-term value” in Tesla will eventually derive from Optimus.

Since the electric car maker’s last annual meeting in August 2022, Tesla’s largest retail shareholder, Leo Kujuan, has blasted Musk for selling billions of dollars’ worth of his Tesla holdings to fund the $44 billion buyout of Twitter.

Koguan, a billionaire and founder of IT services company SHI International, Called the company’s board of directors “To carry out shock therapy to revive share prices,” that is, by buying back shares late last year.

Some Tesla institutional investors have blamed Musk for being too distracted during his role as Twitter CEO to perform better at the helm of Tesla, but Musk said Tuesday he expects to spend less time on Twitter going forward than he has in the past six months. They also criticized Tesla’s board of directors, led by chairwoman Robyn Denholm, for failing to rein in it and protect shareholder interests.

An attendee asked Musk about rumors that he is considering stepping down from Tesla. “It’s not like that,” said Musk.

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

Shares in Tesla closed at $228.52 on Oct. 28, 2022, after Musk officially took over Twitter. They closed at $166.52 on May 16, 2023, as the meeting began, and were up about 1% hours later.

At a shareholder meeting last year, Musk predicted an 18-month recession, raised the possibility of a stock buyback, and told investors that the electric car business aims to produce 20 million vehicles annually by 2030, which he believes will require dozens of factories in total. One that produces 1.5 million to 2 million units a year.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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