Opinion: With Tesla tanking margins, Elon Musk is as soon as once more pointing to self-driving as a future savior

Tesla Inc.’s revenue margins are falling. Amid large value cuts, that was virtually all buyers and analysts wished to speak about after the electrical automotive firm launched earnings on Wednesday. Tesla


CEO Elon Musk had a solution to ease everybody’s fears, although: Don’t fear, full autonomy is nearly right here and also you’ll clear up the margin downside.

Musk has been making absurd predictions in regards to the arrival of self-driving automobiles for a number of years now, together with the notorious prediction in 2019 that Tesla automobiles could be extra worthwhile than what customers paid for them as a result of they might remodel right into a fleet of automated robots within the close to future. Whereas all the pieces that has occurred since then continues to indicate that Tesla’s Autonomy Day 2016 present wasn’t as much as parMusk continues to advertise his favourite fantasy.

“We anticipate our automobiles over time to have the ability to generate vital income with autonomy. So we predict we’re laying the groundwork right here and it’s higher to ship plenty of automobiles with a decrease margin after which make a better margin sooner or later, as a result of we’re totally autonomous,” Musk mentioned. “It is a essential level.”

Tesla inventory fell 3% to 4% in after-hours buying and selling previous to the decision, and fell to six% between the tip of the convention name and the tip of the after-hours buying and selling session. Maybe as a result of buyers noticed the disconnect between Musk admitting that progress towards autonomy is uneven, whereas saying — as he has for years — that such autonomy can be right here in a matter of months.

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“There can be two steps ahead, one step again between releases, for these attempting the beta,” he mentioned. “However the development may be very clear in direction of full self-driving, in direction of full autonomy. And I hesitate to say this, however I feel we’ll do it this yr.”

This wasn’t what buyers wished to listen to, as query after query centered on margins. With the double whammy of accelerating competitors with new electrical automobiles from huge automakers, together with a comfortable economic system and rising rates of interest, Tesla has slashed costs on numerous fashions and in numerous markets about 5 occasions up to now this yr alone. This despatched GAAP gross margins all the way down to 19.3%, down from 29% in the identical quarter final yr.

A lot of the questions on the corporate’s name had been about revenue margins or pricing, as one investor tried to get a way of what buyers can anticipate for gross margins in 2023, excluding tax breaks. The solutions from Musk and different executives had been imprecise past the fanciful response to autonomy.

Full Dividend Protection: Tesla inventory fell 6% as value cuts hit margins

“It is a tough surroundings to make forecasts like this,” Tesla CFO Zachary Kirkhorn mentioned in a long-running reply that didn’t embrace a lot, if any. There’s plenty of complete uncertainty. There are additionally headwinds and tailwinds. And that’s principally a query, I feel, asking our view of the place the prices are going to go.”

Tesla buyers have been down this street earlier than with Musk and his predictions about self-driving, so they need to know tips on how to ignore his predictions now. But when Musk’s pipe dream is the one concrete reply Tesla has to revive its margin profile and that’s the underlying purpose for an out-of-control valuation with the auto sector, Tesla inventory may very well be even decrease.