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Home / Business / The tech report card "Verge 2018": Tesla

The tech report card "Verge 2018": Tesla

In 2018, Tesla achieved its biggest quarterly profit and the first profit in two years. The company delivered nearly 100,000 Model 3 vehicles in the first full year of production of the least expensive vehicle. SpaceX, another company owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, successfully launched its brand new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time – and Musk took advantage of it to send one of the original Tesla Roadsters into space. These measures made 2018 a great success for Tesla.

Of course there is more to this story: a failed plan to become private, announced by Musk on Twitter; a beef with the SEC; Difficulty keeping top executives who are not called Elon Musk; and a close call with death. There were questions about the safety of Tesla's cars, the safety of the workers who made the cars, and the buyers of the after-sales service. What could be considered a rebound year for Tesla was actually a rollercoaster ride, as reflected in the stock price, which started at $ 323 this year, up to $ 387 and up to $ 244 before rising to $ 334 at the end of December 28 ̵

1; a slight improvement.

But Musk put the company on the Model 3, and in 2018 it was about to see if this gambling was worth it. This meant that these roller-coaster moments were often unbearable for Tesla devotees (and catnip for critics), especially since Musk himself was only a few weeks away from death.

The year did not start well: Tesla lost $ 2 billion in 2017 when the Model 3 production got underway, and yet the company was months behind the goals for this car. As of January 1, 2018, only 1,550 Model 3s had been delivered – far from the 5,000 per week musk originally promised for the end of 2017.

  The Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 / Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Musk also promised that production would increase exponentially as soon as the ball rolled onto Model 3. The rise began in early 2018, but it was not until Musk had admitted that Tesla had heavily automated the production line that this was a mistake the Model 3 really broke. Musk went back in April to a mix of automation and manual work.

While the issue of the Model 3 stuttered in March, a California Tesla owner died in a crash when using the company's autopilot driver assistance feature.

Tesla said the driver received several warnings in the minutes before the crash, suggesting he was not paying attention – although this had been reported in May The company had decided against equipping the vehicles with more advanced driver monitoring capabilities. Death re-examined the company's efforts to increase the autonomy of its cars, and it was immediately followed by the news of Tesla's biggest recall, which was ever made for a disconnected steering problem.

(Months after this death, Tesla published his first report on the "safety" of the driver assistance function.) Musk promised that Tesla would regularly publish these reports, but this first report contained few details) the promised "full self-driving" Capabilities of his cars later in the year.)

Soon after, in April, Tesla made 2,000 model 3s a week. Even at this rate, the company was behind the already late deadlines of Musk. Musk announced that Tesla would need to build the electric limousine around the clock to meet its production target of 5,000 a week. The stress was evident: during an investor in the spring, Musk called the analysts for asking "boring, breakneck" questions. Instead, they spent 20 minutes answering them from a YouTuber.

Investors seemed to lose confidence as Tesla's share price sank to its low for the year. The autopilot death increased pressure on the Model 3 production ramp as the company "bleeding as crazy" as Musk admitted in Axios .

In response, Tesla and Musk became more aggressive. Tesla was dropped off by the National Highway Traffic Safety investigation authority over the autopilot's death in March, despite the company's claim to resign. Reveal and The Center for Investigative Reporting published an exposure to alleged safety issues at Tesla's plant in Fremont, California in April (followed later this year by a similar story about the injury practices of Tesla's local clinic). Tesla responded to the story by calling Reveal an "extremist organization".

In the summer, Tesla set in motion: The company built a tent in the parking lot in front of the Fremont plant that allowed Tesla Increase the capacity for model 3 without radically reorganizing the functioning within the factory walls. After Musk found what he called the "Russian Nesting Doll" structure of contractors, Tesla dismissed a few thousand workers and destroyed the company's leadership structure. Tesla also closed a dozen solar installation centers and withdrew from a deal to sell its energy storage products to Home Depot, as resources were focused on the Model 3.

The on-the-fly adjustments worked. A few hours after Musk's deadline, the company reached its half-year target and finally began to make a modest profit with the Model 3. Tesla also announced plans for the first international gigafactory to be opened in China sometime in 2020. The company has the opportunity to reach the largest electric car market in the world without having to transport vehicles around the world or dealing with delicate ones Trade relations between the US and China. In the spring, Musk rang in relief after interviewing analysts after announcing the company's second quarter results in August.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

A week later, the CEO of Tesla sent the infamous tweet "Financing secured". Musk announced that he wanted to privatize Tesla again – at a stock price of $ 420. Tesla hit the stock market high for the year as supporters abolished, hoping to bring Musk's tweeted vision to life.

There followed a few surreal weeks. Musk admitted that he had discussed the plan with the State Fund of the State of Saudi Arabia, but withdrew and kept the company in public. However, Musk had only had casual talks with fund managers, and many people in Tesla – from the company's head of investor relations to his chief financial officer – had not received the announcement. All of this was later published in a SEC complaint. In fact, the lawsuit itself indicated a degree of instability; Musk had come close to agreeing with the agency and abruptly withdrew to reach a more punitive agreement days later. He was forced to resign for three years as Chairman of Tesla, pay a fine of $ 20 million, and oversee his public communications on the company, including his tweets.

This may explain why so many top Tesla executives approached the company, including the head of Global Finance and the company's accounting officer. That's not all: The SEC, the DOJ and the FBI have launched investigations against Tesla. In addition to the "funding secured" investigation, the authorities also investigated Tesla's communication on its Model 3 numbers. The company's stock traded well into early October, almost reaching its low point in the spring as investors responded to the move and the news of the government's increased focus on Tesla.

The Model 3, on the other hand, swapped damned "production hell" for "delivery". "Tesla relied on loyal fans and customers to help with a delivery bottleneck towards the end of the year as thousands of Model 3 Series models became avid owners across the country. These new owners also had problems, in terms of delivery delays and notable quality issues. Musk admitted that Tesla had made a "stupid mistake" by leaving large gaps in service coverage in the US and promised to improve its reach by early 2019.

Tesla produced and delivered enough Model 3s to contribute $ 311 million in the third quarter of the year. Musk had promised investors at the beginning of 2018 that Tesla would achieve profitability in the second half of the year. So this was the first big step. (The fourth-quarter earnings will not be announced until early 2019.) Even this win for Tesla was tied to a qualification: about $ 190 million of the $ 311 million earned by Tesla in the quarter came from the US $ 176 million Sale of prudential loans.

Nonetheless, the Tesla share climbed in the following weeks and almost peaked in mid-December, though it had fallen dramatically during a sell-off in the wider market at the end of the month. Tesla's stock will leave 2018 more or less at its starting point.

However, Tesla, the company, leaves 2018 in better shape than it entered. There are valuable questions about autopilot, especially as the US government is dealing with the legislation of advanced driver assistance systems and possibly autonomous cars. The company's treatment of the workforce is still under scrutiny and will require more attention as Tesla advances into new regions such as China in 2019.

Tesla has to deliver on its original promise to deliver a version of the car that launches at $ 35,000, which Musk delayed until 2019 to focus on more expensive margins with higher margins. The Model 3 is now almost a fully implemented product, and the company has been able to be profitable in the future. That could not have happened at any more important time: Musk told Axios at the end of November that Tesla had avoided death in the summer only a few weeks. He bet on the company and won. Wherever the story of Tesla goes on and what detours Elon Musk has in store, it's likely to be remembered in 2018.

Endnote: B-

2018 Class

The Verge 2018 Testimony: Tesla

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Gold Stars

  • Massive ramp-up of the production of Model 3
  • First profit for two years / biggest quarterly profit of all time
  • Announced expansion to China

Need for improvement

  • Shifting attention and spending on restrained projects
  • Ongoing problems with the workforce
  • Requires more consistent quality and service, as well as visibility into Autopilot's capabilities and safety metrics

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