Longtime Tesla critic and former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz has surprisingly acknowledged the progress of the electric car maker and Elon Musk. As TSLA stock surged to record highs and approached the $500 per share barrier, Lutz finally gave the company and its CEO some recognition, stating that Tesla is now being run like a normal business.
“Tesla is finally being run like a normal business. [Musk] finally reigned in his costs. He’s reduced personnel and reduced unnecessary expenditures and has basically done what any other businessman would do in a situation where you’re selling a bunch of stuff, but you’re not profitable,” he said during a segment on CNBC‘s Squawk on the Street.
“He has been quite adept. The encouraging thing to me about Tesla is from Elon there is less talk, less bluster. He is focusing on the business, focusing on the product and focusing on cost control,” he added.
This recognition is a complete 180-degree turn for the former GM exec. Lutz, after all, has been one of Tesla’s staunchest critics, stating back in September 2018 that the company was “headed to the graveyard.” He also claimed that “Tesla has no tech advantage, no software advantage, no battery advantage. No advantages whatsoever.”
Even as recently as last October, Lutz has been bearish on Tesla and its vehicles. During an appearance at Autoline After Hours, Lutz opted to throw some shade at the Model Y, calling the vehicle “terminally ugly” and stating that “I don’t know who’s gonna buy that.” That being said, Lutz had had his moments when he recognized Tesla, also stating in an article on Road & Track that the Model 3’s build quality has become impeccably good.
In his recent appearance at CNBC, Lutz stated that the situation in Tesla has dramatically changed, especially with the electric car maker showing a profit in Q3 2019, and the company finishing 2019 with record Model 3 deliveries. Lutz noted that Tesla’s financials are improving because the Model 3’s higher-end variants are selling well, and the vehicles are becoming a “high-end” alternative to a BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
In classic fashion, though, Lutz ended up getting critical facts about the Model 3 wrong. For one, he suggested that Tesla announced a $33k variant of the Model 3. This is false, as the company has announced the vehicle’s starting price at $35k. Lutz also appeared to have the impression that the off-menu $35k Standard Range and sub-$40k Standard Range Plus Model 3, do not exist (or at least sells very poorly), as he spoke of the company’s Model 3 sales being comprised of variants that cost $55k-$60k.
“What’s happening is that the Model 3, after a relatively slow start, is finally accelerating and the interesting thing is it’s not the affordable $33k everyman’s EV. It has really become positioned at about $55-$60k. And buyers see it as an alternative to a high-performance BMW 3 Series or a Mercedes. So as long as they can keep this premium pricing, as I say, about $30k over they had originally talked about, obviously that car is going to be profitable,” he said.
As of writing, Tesla stock is trading +6.01% at $497.25 per share.
Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.