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Tesla Stock: Robotaxis Won’t Rescue Musk as Earnings ‘Disaster’ Looms

Last Updated September 23, 2020 12:40 PM
David Hundeyin
Last Updated September 23, 2020 12:40 PM

By CCN.com: Tesla’s Autonomy Investor Day has come and gone, and investors have passed judgment on Elon Musk’s latest series of pronouncement and promises. The results do not look good for Tesla stock, which according to CFRA analyst Garrett Nelson is heading for an “outright disaster” when the company reports its earnings on Wednesday.

Tesla Stock Drops After Autonomy Investor Day Fails to Impress

Tesla’s solution to brewing investor dissatisfaction was to tout its driverless technology at Monday’s Autonomy Investor Day. The problem with the announcements is that in many ways, they were just more of the same. TSLA shareholders recognized this, which is why Tesla stock traded down throughout the after-market session and into Tuesday morning.

Tesla Stock price
Tesla stock declined even as Elon Musk touted driverless technology and robotaxis at the firm’s investor day. | Source: Yahoo Finance

Even worse, the tone and message of the entire seminar showed that Tesla still revolves around Elon Musk and his cult of personality. If the presentation taught us one thing, it is that Tesla sees itself as Elon Musk LLC, rather than a multi-billion dollar global vehicle manufacturer.

Tesla Keeps Over-Promising and Under-Delivering

Something that has particularly irked Tesla investors is the company’s continued tendency to over-promise and under-deliver. This trend looks set to continue, with Musk again making a series of wildly optimistic predictions and promises with unrealistic time frames for delivery.

Against conventional wisdom, Musk promises that Tesla’s Full Self Driving technology will be fully operational by Q2 2020. Other carmakers exploring driverless technology are not committing to ambitious deadlines, recognizing that the sheer complexity of the tech makes it unwise to promise total mastery over the cutting-edge technology.

Tesla, however, continues to treat the situation as a marketing opportunity, with Musk promising investors that the Tesla FSD will be complete by the end of 2019 and awaiting U.S. regulatory permission by the end of 2020. This is particularly incredible because unlike other major attempts to solve the driverless problem, Tesla has chosen to thoroughly dispose of laser radar (lidar) sensor technology, choosing instead to go with a framework of cameras, forward-facing radar, and ultrasonic sensors to collect information about a vehicle’s environment.

Why Not Just Rename It Elon Musk LLC?

elon musk tesla stock tsla
Tesla operates as if it’s “Elon Musk LLC.” | Source: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Touting Tesla’s FSD tech as the most advanced in the market, Musk was openly dismissive of lidar tech during the seminar, stating that it is a “fool’s errand and a crutch.” Bearing in mind that industry heavyweights like Google’s Waymo and Mobileye currently use lidar, investors would doubtless have seen the unnecessary remark as yet another signal that Musk simply cannot keep his ego in check. Indeed, Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s head of AI made sure to “clarify” Musk’s comment soon after, explaining how Tesla’s FSD is technically superior to lidar.

There’s also the matter of Musk promising a radical overhaul of Tesla battery pack designs, which would apparently double their current lifespan from about 500,000 miles to 1 million miles. Thankfully this did not come with a firm and unrealistic deadline, but investors would no doubt have thought “We’ve heard this one before.”

Even more incredulously, Musk gave investors a long line of spiel about a proposed network of driverless taxis. Despite presenting no evidence that Tesla has its driverless technology figured out, Musk informed investors that the company is already looking to re-purpose Model 3s at the end of their lease contracts to build up its proposed robotaxi fleet.

What all this demonstrates is that Elon Musk is an egomaniac who continues to make big promises that he may not have the capacity to deliver on.

Tesla faces a brutal earnings reckoning tomorrow. As TSLA shares careen toward 12-month lows, shareholders can only hope that the “outright disaster” is already priced in.