I'd love for you to join our community of curious minds who believe in Musk's vision. Premium subscribers receive two ad-free issues per week, get access to our secret Facebook group, and save 20% on our Tesla & SpaceX themed apparel. Join or learn more here.
♦ Note From The Curator ♦
The top three stories in this issue of Elon Musk News are:
This issue is full of news from SpaceX's Sunday launch, and Tesla's 2016 Q4 earnings call & letter. For me, my favorite piece of news is Elon's email to Tesla employees that he sent late last night. If you want insight into how he is as a boss, I highly recommend reading it.
Thank-you so much for being part of this community, and enjoy Issue 72!
♦ Featured Quote ♦
"I expect to remain with tesla essentially forever unless somebody kicks me out so that remains my intention. I've been pursuing the Mars thing at SpaceX and sustainability at Tesla for a long time simultaneously so I think we've got into a pretty good rhythm."
[On Sunday] a Falcon 9 rocket was launched, quickly disappearing into a low cloud deck, with 5,500 pounds of supplies, experiments and other cargo headed to the International Space Station. The Dragon cargo capsule is to arrive at the station on Wednesday. A robotic arm will grab the capsule and take it to one of the docking ports. "All is looking great," Jessica Jensen, the director of Dragon mission management at SpaceX, said in a news conference after the launch. "We're not expecting any issues."
SpaceX was again able to recover the booster stage. As the second stage ignited to push the cargo capsule to orbit, the booster turned around back toward land. Eight minutes after it left the ground, it set down on a landing site a few miles away. It was the eighth successful landing and the third on land.
After hitting a technical snag the day before, SpaceX finally managed to get its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on Thursday, making the latest ISS commercial resupply mission a success. The capsule was tasked with delivering 5,489 pounds of cargo to the space station — everything from day-to-day items for the astronauts onboard, to scientific equipment important to ongoing and new research investigations.
Zach says: You can find Tesla's 2016 Q4 letter to shareholders at the bottom of the article.
Tesla released its fourth quarter 2016 earnings after the closing bell on Wednesday, summarized in the Q4'16 Update Letter, surprising Wall Street after posting fourth quarter earnings loss of 69 cents a share, at the low end of the estimated analyst losses. Revenue was $2.28 billion versus an estimate of $2.13 billion.
In the letter, Tesla states that "We expect to deliver 47,000 to 50,000 Model S and Model X vehicles combined in the first half of 2017, representing vehicle delivery growth of 61% to 71% compared with the same period last year. In addition, both GAAP and non-GAAP automotive gross margin should recover in Q1 to Q3 2016 levels and then continue to expand in Q2 2017."
Zach says: I highly recommend reading the letter in full, you can find it at the bottom of the article. As one commenter noted: "Going to guess UAW never negotiated free frozen yogurt or roller coaster transportation for any of their members."
In the email, Musk addressed the main claims made in the original blog post: safety, long work hours, and compensation. He also added another category "Fun". The CEO promises "more fun things" as the company becomes profitable. He even brought back the idea of a "Tesla electric pod car roller coaster" used for travel around the Fremont campus.
The key findings from Musk's investigation are that Tesla's total recordable incident rate (TRIR) has now dropped "under 3.3", which is less than half the industry average of 6.7, and worker compensations can be "$70,000 to $100,000" higher than the industry when accounting for stock options.
"There's a lot more automation [manufacturing the Model 3] than there is for S and X. We have the Gigafactory [making] powertrains, power electronics, charger, a few other things. That's a huge asset," Musk said during the earnings call. "I also refocused most of Tesla engineering into designing the factory — in the future, the factory will be a more important product than the car itself. I've said this before, but our goal is to be the best manufacturer on Earth. [That's] the real goal. I don't know if it will succeed but I think we are making good progress into its direction."
"Later this year, we expect to finalize locations for Gigafactories 3, 4, and possibly 5 (Gigafactory 2 is the Tesla solar plant in New York)," projects the letter to shareholders. "I think we'll reserve, keep some powder dry for those announcements later this year," Musk told investors during a conference call after the release of the fourth quarter 2016 earnings report. "This probably wasn't enough news for today, but I think those announcements are really quite exciting later this year."
Tesla said it was "well positioned to scale our business significantly" in 2017 — and it looks like it might also hit the "impossible date" of July 1 to start producing its affordable electric car. According to the letter, the Model 3 will scale up to produce 5,000 vehicles per week in the fourth financial quarter of 2017, and double that rate to 10,000 vehicles per week sometime in 2018. Tesla says some of the Model 3's production speed is thanks to its acquisition of Grohmann Engineering in January, a German firm that specializes in automating manufacturing processes.
Tesla started building full prototypes of the Model 3 in early February to test the manufacturing process and start crash testing and other procedures — the letter states that "initial crash test results have been positive." It's currently installing the manufacturing equipment for the Model 3 at its Fremont facility and the Gigafactory in Nevada, where it has already started producing batteries.
"The Model 3 is really designed for manufacturing," Musk said, saying that it lacked a lot of the "bells and whistles" earlier models had. For instance, the Model S and S both have two separate screens powered by two separate computers, while the Model 3 just has one. The Model S has three kilometers of wiring, while the upcoming car has just half that. "These reduce the risk substantially in the ramp and make it just easier to scale," Musk continued. "So I think it's going to be a very compelling car, but it's just — it's a simpler design."
[In addition], Tesla says it's now able to partner with larger suppliers than it did while making earlier cars in its start-up days, and Musk touts the great strides he's made in automating his company's factories.
Tesla VP of Global Investor Relations Jeff Evanson told analysts during the company's fourth quarter and full year 2016 earnings call that Tesla is looking to provide insurance policies customized to the vehicle being sold. "We're actually currently doing that. We've been doing it quietly, but in Asia in particular where we started this, now the majority of Tesla cars are sold with an insurance product that is customized to Tesla, that takes into account not only the Autopilot safety features but also the maintenance costs of the car."
Elon Musk added "This is not to the exclusion of insurance providers if we find that insurance providers are not matching the insurance proportionate to the risk of the car. If we need to we'll in-source it, but I think we'll find that our insurance partners do adjust rates proportionate to the risk of a Tesla."
"Ahead of the Model 3 launch, we are reengineering and expanding our operations as we anticipate the needs of a much larger family of Tesla owners. In service, since more than 80% of our repairs are so minor that they can be done remotely, we are expanding our mobile repair service that allows Tesla to make vehicle repairs at an owner's home or office."
Amid growing concerns from Tesla owners citing long service delays, the Silicon Valley-based automaker also said that it has increased the number of cars serviced per day by 95% since early last year, and on track to reduce service wait times to less than one day, based on a global average.
Energy from SolarCity is less expensive than traditional electricity in most places across the U.S. With $0 down, you'll secure a low fixed monthly rate and save on your utility bill. Click here to get a free personalized plan from Joe Maushart, our Energy Consultant at SolarCity.
In the Tesla Q4 and full year 2016 financial results and Q&A webcast on Wednesday, SolarCity was well-celebrated as an essential element of "the world's only integrated sustainable energy company, from generation to storage to transportation."
Discussions around the Tesla Q4 financial statement included the results of SolarCity's operations from the close of the acquisition on November 21 to December 31, 2016. Increases totaling Q4 GAAP operating expenses supported the growing Tesla business spectrum alongside $85 million of solar-related operating expenses since the acquisition of SolarCity. Moreover, Tesla also received $214 million in cash from the acquisition of SolarCity, which helped sweeten the Q4 report.
"India has an amazing combination of factors that makes it a possible target nation to have the first hyperloop project," said Bibop Gresta, chairman and co-founder of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), during a visit to Mumbai on Thursday. Gresta argued that India has a lack of infrastructure, a high population density and the need for a more efficient and faster way to transport people and freight. "This combination of factors creates not only the need but also the perfect environment to build a hyperloop," he said.