Investor's Corner

Tesla attracts polarizing views from former GM exec Bob Lutz and current GM CEO Mary Barra

Amidst Tuesday’s steep drop in Tesla stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) due to reports of the US Department of Justice’s investigation on Elon Musk’s “funding secured” tweet last August, former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has aired his prediction about the electric car maker’s future. While speaking in a segment of CNBC‘s Closing Bell, Lutz noted that Tesla is an “automobile company that is headed for the graveyard.”

Lutz noted that Elon Musk is a “nice guy,” but he does not know how to run a car company. Lutz also expressed his reservations about Tesla’s capability to produce the Model 3 at scale, pointing out the Fremont plant’s low vehicle output.

“They will never make money on the Model 3 because the cost is way too high. He’s got 9,000 people in that assembly plant producing less than 150,000 cars a year. The whole thing just doesn’t compute. It’s an automobile company that is headed for the graveyard,” Lutz said.

The former GM executive further noted that in a year or two, the electric car maker would likely not be around anymore. Lutz even opted to add a reference to a documentary that featured Tesla in the past, Revenge of the Electric Car, which is the sequel to the film Who Killed the Electric Car, a documentary that covered the rise and fall of GM’s well-received yet short-lived electric vehicle, the EV1.

“Tesla has no tech advantage, no software advantage, no battery advantage. No advantages whatsoever. The jaws are tightening, and I think in another year or two we’ll see a movie called Who Killed Tesla, a conspiracy movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio,” Lutz said.

The former GM Vice Chairman’s statements stand in stark contrast to recent comments from GM’s current CEO Mary Barra. Earlier this month, while speaking at an Axios-sponsored event in Boston, Massachusettes, Barra gave a nod of respect to Tesla, whom she dubbed as the company to beat when it comes to the creation of premium, high-performance electric cars. Barra even noted that she sees Tesla as a “capable” rival in the auto market, particularly in terms of GM’s own efforts to design and roll out its own electric cars.

“[Tesla has] very capable electric vehicles. When we look at the landscape of competition from a car company perspective, whether it’s Tesla or whether it’s some of the global [equipment manufacturers], there’s very capable competition, and that’s what kind of drives us. That’s why we’ve been so aggressive on investing in technology and moving quickly,” she said

Both Lutz and Barra are GM executives who have acknowledged the need to come up with vehicles that stand apart from traditional fossil fuel-powered automobiles. GM, for one, created the Chevrolet Volt hybrid during Bob Lutz’s tenure in the company, and the Chevy Bolt EV, an all-electric car that has been well-received, was released with the support of Mary Barra.

Tesla, for its part, has released a statement on Tuesday clarifying that it has only received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ following Elon Musk’s now-infamous “funding secured” tweet.

“Last month, following Elon’s announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it. We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process. We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received.”

Tesla attracts polarizing views from former GM exec Bob Lutz and current GM CEO Mary Barra
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