Elon Musk speaking at Tesla Investor Day.
When Tesla CEO Elon Musk promoted a 2023 Investor Day event to be held on March 1, he promised to reveal his “Master Plan 3,” a long-term vision for the company’s next stage of growth.
Last year, Musk said his new plan would include details on: “scaling to extreme size, which is needed to shift humanity away from fossil fuels, and AI.” He also promised the plan would include “sections about SpaceX, Tesla and The Boring Company.”
The hours-long Tesla Investor Day on Wednesday evening left many shareholders and fans wanting more, however, and sent Tesla’s stock price lower on Thursday, though analysts were positive on balance.
Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a Friday morning autos update, “Walking away from Tesla’s investor day, we were admittedly disappointed with the overall lack of details on its next-gen platform, including launch timing, vehicle segments and price points, and financial implications. At the same time, the company showcased impressive traction and presented high-level plans for deep technological and manufacturing improvements which in our view, leave its long-term volume and margin upside trajectory intact.”
At the event, there was no discussion of the very affordable electric car the company first teased at a 2020 Battery Day event, no update on start of deliveries for the Cybertruck, no details about the long-delayed revamped Roadster, and no update on the company’s progress in heavy duty trucking with its new Semi.
Musk did not discuss ways in which Tesla plans to work with his other ventures. And a “Master Plan 3” document was still not posted to the company’s Investor Relations page as of Friday morning.
What worked and what didn’t work at the presentation?
Pivotal Media founder Marisa Thomas, who has trained executives in tech, finance and elected officials to hone their presentation skills for more than a decade, shared her analysis.
One thing the Investor Day accomplished well was to turn shareholders’ attention to the broader organization under Tesla’s celebrity CEO.
During the event, Tesla trotted out 17 different company leaders who spoke about what the company has achieved so far, and where it hopes to go next.
“I guess it’s no longer the Elon show,” Thomas said. “At a time when so many people are concerned about how fragmented his focus is as a leader, it makes sense to try to make people comfortable with the team– that the team is more than Elon.”
Since Musk led a $44 billion acquisition of Twitter and appointed himself CEO there in October last year, Tesla shareholders have voiced frustration over his split focus, his use of Tesla personnel to help him at Twitter, and the controversy he has courted with his own tweets and by making massive changes to the platform.
His moves at Twitter and increasingly political provocations on Twitter appear to have dampened interest in the Tesla brand, particularly among left-leaning potential customers and shareholders, according to data from YouGov shared with CNBC.
While the investor day highlighted Tesla’s bench, diversity was not a strong point: Only two of the leaders who presented were women. Thomas said that in 2023, two women on stage of 17 presenters amounted to a “a very poor showing,” and did not give a “feeling of optimism” about diversity and equity at the company.
The presentation could have been more polished as well. While some presenters spoke more confidently, others read nervously from teleprompters.
“It’s public speaking, not public reading. It’s hard to have confidence in someone who is supposed to be the expert, but who is looking down and reading off scripts. Too often, engineers think they get a pass on public speaking — but this skill has to be in the tool kit of any executive,” Thomas advised.
Investor Day may have succeeded in showing off the Tesla team, but the content left some fans and analysts disappointed.
For one, Thomas said, the event started late and ran on far too long — about three hours, followed by a question-and-answer session. “People have trouble sitting through a two-hour action movie these days! A three-hour investor presentation totally lacks focus,” said Thomas.
Tesla also failed to deliver clear takeaways at Investor Day. “Every good presentation should have a few key takeaways — are they obvious to investors, and why do they matter for Tesla’s future? This event didn’t accomplish that,” she added.
Tesla’s long time head of investor relations, Martin Viecha, seemed to acknowledge the meeting was too long and that key points may not be clear to all. He posted a 9-point recap on Twitter, “for those who don’t have 3 hours.”
The Mexico factory
Executives also waited to confirm the company’s biggest news of the week until several hours into the event. At the start of a question-and-answer session, Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla will be opening its next major factory outside of Monterrey, Mexico.
He didn’t offer any new details.
On Thursday, Mexican officials filled in some of those blanks in media interviews, revealing that Tesla is expected to spend $5 billion on the vehicle assembly plant near-term and $10 billion over the long run, employing between 5,000 and 10,000 workers.
The factory will be Tesla’s largest in the world, with a land purchase of about 4,200 acres in an industrial zone and the capacity to build up to 1 million cars per year. By contrast, Tesla’s factory in Austin, Texas sits on about 2,500 acres.
At Investor Day, Musk said he thought some officials from Mexico were in attendance. He didn’t say their names, and wasn’t sure of their titles. Thomas said that if the new factory is going to be important to Mexico’s economic future, and to Tesla’s business, it was not smart for the CEO to treat these officials in an offhand, lackluster manner. He could have welcomed the guests by name, and more respectfully acknowledged their partnership.