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Tesla’s Musk offers bullish forecast, pumps brakes on batteries hype

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, shown unveiling the Model Y in 2019, had cautioned that what was being touted at the company’s first “Battery Day” event would not be widely produced for two years.

(Jae C. Hong/AP)

Tesla Inc. expects to see deliveries grow on the order of 30% to 40% this year, reaffirming its forecast at a time when other automakers are struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Chief Executive Elon Musk told shareholders.

“While the rest of the industry has gone down, Tesla has gone up,” Musk said at the company’s annual meeting Tuesday. “We’ll do really pretty well in 2020, probably somewhere between 30-40% growth despite a lot of very difficult circumstances, so many: pandemic, wildfires, a whole bunch of difficult production issues.”

Tesla has said it expected to deliver 500,000 vehicles this year, up about 36% from 2019. In July, the electric-car maker said achieving that goal would be “more difficult” due to a pandemic-related production shutdown early in the year. Global sales are projected to drop about 17% this year to 75 million from 90 million last year, according to research firm LMC Automotive.

Tesla shares reversed an early post-market gain of as much as 5.6%, falling as much as 2.9% after closing at $424.23 on Tuesday.

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Investors in the company have much to be happy about, with the stock up more than 400% this year. Tesla’s $395-billion market cap dwarfs other carmakers and has made Musk, who owns an 18% stake in the company, the third-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Because of COVID-19 and social distancing, the shareholder meeting was held outside — with customers sitting in Tesla Model 3s — like a drive-in movie theater. As Musk spoke, many beeped their horns to show approval.

Musk, speaking on a stage at one of the company’s facilities in Fremont, Calif., also gave a shout out to Tesla’s team in China, noting the company’s factory in Shanghai went from “a dirt pile to volume production in 15 months.” He said Tesla factories under construction in Berlin and Austin, Texas, will speed up delivery times for customers, stressing the Texas plant will produce vehicles destined for the East Coast of the U.S.

The shareholder meeting was immediately followed by the company’s first ever “Battery Day” for investors, which opened with a highly technical presentation. Musk had tempered expectations in a tweet cautioning that what the company is announcing won’t be widely produced for two years, affecting production of new vehicles including Tesla’s Semi, Cybertruck pickup and Roadster sports car.

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Tesla currently makes the S, X, 3 and Y models at its Fremont assembly plant and a “Made in China” Model 3 at its factory in Shanghai. The facility it is building in Austin will assemble the Cybertruck.


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