Tesla Tidbits: Elon Interviewed, ZEV Tales and Fleet Sales, FBI Investigation ‘Utterly False’

An eccentric and brilliant company founder, profitably shipping
80,000 electric luxury cars per quarter while launching rockets,
drilling tunnels and deploying billions in capital at a breakneck
speed is going to generate a flood of news, data, rumors and
misinformation. 

We sort through the waves of Tesla signal in a distillation of
the latest Tesla numbers, quotes, lawsuits and tweets.

Tesla’s 10-Q filing arrives

Tesla filed its 10-Q on Nov. 1 and provided some details not
found in its Oct. 24 earnings report. Here’s what stands
out. 

On page 17 in the 10-Q, Tesla reveals that a single entity
represents “10 percent or more” of its accounts receivable (AR)
balance. Ten percent of Tesla’s $1.15 billion in AR at the end of
Q3 2018 would be $115 million. That’s the value of more than 1,000
vehicles. What else could this be but a fleet purchase?

One Twitter user claims a manager at rental car company
Enterprise confirmed
the purchase of 1,000 Tesla vehicles. Enterprise already offers
Tesla cars, so that’s not too much of a stretch. GTM has contacted
Enterprise for comment. It’s notable, though, that fleet sales are
not typically high-margin events. 

It’s also notable that Tesla is profitable, irrespective of
credit accounting. On page 41 in the 10-Q, Tesla reveals,
“ZEV credits sales were $52.3 million and non-ZEV regulatory
credits sales were $137.2 million” in the third quarter. In its
earnings report, Tesla only disclosed the $52 million in
ZEV credits. That total of $189 million in regulatory credits
accounts for about half of Tesla’s $312 million profit in the
most recent quarter. So the company was profitable, but that
appears to have been driven
more by credit sales
than product revenues than initially
thought. 

Recode interviews Elon Musk 

The usually confrontational Kara Swisher of Recode interviewed
Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Halloween at Tesla’s Palo Alto
headquarters. 

New products are “heart-stopping.” Musk
rattled off the company’s upcoming automotive products: the Model
Y — its midsize SUV, the Semi truck, the next-generation
Roadster with the “fastest acceleration, fastest top speed, best
handling” of any car, EV or internal combusion engine. But Musk
reserved some special enthusiasm for the pickup truck, which he
described as “a really futuristic-like cyberpunk, ‘Blade Runner’
pickup truck. It’s gonna be awesome, it’s gonna be amazing.
This will be heart-stopping. It stops my heart.” 

“Full self driving next year.” Musk continues
to make bold predictions on autonomous driving. He spoke
of “Drive on Navigation” as “one of the first
major steps toward full self-driving.” And said: “I think we’ll
get to full self-driving next year.” As for the competition in the
self-driving arena, Musk said Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving
division, presented a threat. But, he added, “I don’t think
anyone is close to Tesla in terms of achieving a general
solution.” 

“The worst year of my entire career.” Ramping
up the Model 3 line made this year feel “like five years of aging,”
said the CEO in what he called “the worst year of my entire
career.” Musk said, “Making a car company successful is
monumentally difficult.” GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, while Ford
and Tesla “barely” made it through the last recession, said the
CEO. “There’s a good chance Ford doesn’t make it in the next
recession,”he added. “It is absurd that Tesla is
alive. Absurd!” 

“Tesla cannot die.” Things get a bit messianic
as Musk intones, “Tesla cannot die. Tesla is incredibly important
for the future of sustainable transport and energy generation.
The fundamental purpose, the fundamental good that Tesla provides
is accelerating the advent of sustainable transport and energy
production. I think it’s fair to say that Tesla has advanced
sustainable energy by at least five years, conservatively,
and maybe closer to 10, and then if we continue to make progress,
we might advance it by 20 years.”

Tunnel opening party is on Dec 10: When Musk
isn’t rearranging the world’s transportation system or disrupting
space launch economics, he’s digging tunnels with the Boring
Company. Musk envisions a relief from urban traffic via “massive
improvements” in tunneling technology that gets the job done for
$10 million per mile instead of current U.S. subway costs of $1
billion per mile. Musk notes, “We’re about to finish the first
[Hawthorne] test tunnel.” The opening party is Dec. 10th if you
can snaggle an invite.

The press has to “do better.” Musk reserves
some animus for the press. “Take that Wall Street Journal
front-page article
 about, ‘The FBI is closing in.’ That is
utterly false. That’s absurd. To print such a falsehood on the
front page of a major newspaper is outrageous. The answer is for
the press to be honest and truthful, and research their articles
and correct things properly when they are false.” In response to
the WSJ claim, Tesla noted that it had not received a subpoena, a
request for testimony or any other formal process from the FBI.

The Verge reports
that Tesla did receive a subpoena on Friday
from the SEC concerning Model 3 production forecasts in 2017.

Here’s a
full transcript of the interview
.

“Shareholders need new stewards on the
board.” 

An important set of investors sent Tesla’s three independent
directors a list of demands in a letter last week, according to
reports. The signers of the letter are in charge of some of the
nation’s larger state and city pension funds, including
California State Teachers’ Retirement System. Combined, the
signers help manage about $774 billion in assets and hold
an estimated $322 million in Tesla stock.  

They called for timelines on the departures of board
directors Antonio Gracias, Kimbal Musk and Steve Jurvetson. The
investors also asked for Tesla to find directors with experience
that “specifically match the company’s strategy and current
skill sets.” Robyn Denholm, COO of telecommunications
firm Telstra, is unique among board members, having actually
worked in the automotive business — at Toyota Motor Corporation
Australia — earlier in her career. 

Shareholders have recently voted down board governance-related

requests
from this and other groups.   

Musk tweets of note 

Panasonic is not Tesla’s only source for cells at the China
Gigafactory. Musk
recently tweeted
:

Tesla will manufacture all battery modules
& packs at China Giga, as we do today in California &
Nevada. Cell production will be sourced locally, most likely from
several companies (incl Pana), in order to meet demand in a timely
manner.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
November 2, 2018

In other news, Musk was, apparently, a sponge at one point.

I remember when I was a sponge. Simpler
times they were.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
November 3, 2018

Elon calendar reminder


Musk has to be replaced
as Tesla’s board chair by November 13
as part of an SEC settlement for Musk’s “funding secured”
tweet.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Tesla Tidbits: Elon Interviewed, ZEV Tales and Fleet Sales, FBI Investigation ‘Utterly False’