Investor's Corner

Major Tesla (TSLA) investor urges Elon Musk to temper overly-optimistic targets

One of Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) largest shareholders recently urged CEO Elon Musk to take a more tempered approach when setting targets for the electric car maker. In an interview with Bloomberg Television at Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley conference, James Anderson, a partner and portfolio manager at Baillie Gifford & Co., stated that there are ways for Musk to be more “fruitful” when he talks about the company’s upcoming projects. 

Anderson stated that while there is no need for Musk to be contained or restrained in his online interactions, the CEO would be better off modifying his approach. “One should, on the whole, try not to give too many targets that may not be attainable, with specific dates at establishment. And I don’t think one wants sudden reversals of policy. I hope that’s not too much for a major shareholder to ask,” he said

Elaborating further, the Baillie Gifford partner stated that he is referring to Musk’s statements about initiatives like the Tesla Network’s Robotaxis, which will be comprised of fully autonomous vehicles that will be used for ride-sharing. Musk has released an incredibly optimistic timeframe on the release of the project, stating that by next year, Tesla will have around 1 million Robotaxi-capable vehicles on the road. In order for this to happen, Tesla would have to meet both its aggressive production targets and the complete rollout of its full self-driving suite, which is still under development.  

Baillie Gifford currently holds around 13.2 million TSLA shares, making the firm one of the company’s largest shareholders. The firm has also been one of Tesla and Elon Musk’s most ardent supporters. Last year, Anderson defended Musk and the CEO’s strong opinions against Tesla’s short-sellers, stating that some individuals hoping for the electric car maker’s failure are “vicious” and “malignant.” In the same way, Baillie Gifford also calls out Musk when needed, dubbing his statements against caver Vernon Unsworth “ethically unacceptable” following last year’s Thai cave rescue and its succeeding aftermath. 

It is difficult to argue against Anderson’s points. While Elon Musk stands apart from other CEOs due to his open approach when discussing Tesla’s projects on platforms such as Twitter, even Musk himself admits that he tends to be too optimistic. An example of this is the release of features such as Enhanced Summon, which is yet to see a widespread release despite Musk’s multiple optimistic targets on its rollout. In a way, Elon Musk would best adopt a more conservative stance when it comes to target timeframes, which will ultimately help Tesla under-promise and over-deliver. 

It should be noted that there is really no harm if Elon Musk adopts a more conservative stance when discussing the release of Tesla’s upcoming projects. The company, after all, is conducting such groundbreaking work that announcing a target that’s a few months later than Musk’s personal expectations will not in any way affect the how impressive the company’s innovations will be. Even if Musk states that Full Self-Driving will be fully-ready by 2021, for example, it will still be incredibly impressive. A 2021 release might be later than Musk’s optimistic expectations, but it will likely beat the full rollout of Waymo or Cruise’s own self-driving solutions by a wide margin nonetheless. 

As of writing, Tesla stock is trading -0.44% at $237.88 per share.

Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.

Major Tesla (TSLA) investor urges Elon Musk to temper overly-optimistic targets
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