There were no fireworks after all, but Tesla’s shareholder meeting on Tuesday still had plenty to offer the automaker’s fans and critics alike.
After a couple of months of Tesla CEO Elon Musk chiding Wall Street analysts and growing combative with his critics on Twitter following a history of missing production goals, Tesla’s annual meeting was by comparison a sedate affair—although Musk did grow emotional defending the company’s ideals and managed to relate some biographical insights. Here are some takeaways from the meeting.
Musk will remain chairman
Two of the measures proposed by shareholders would have replaced Musk with an independent chairman and removed three board members (including Musk’s brother) who were up for re-election. Two influential proxy advisors had opposed the re-elections, but in the end, Tesla said both measures failed by a wide margin.
Musk choked up while affirming production goals for the Model 3
Tesla skeptics had argued that the company would not be able to meet the production goals for its Model 3 cars. But Musk grew emotional while assuring shareholders that production lines, which can now build as many as 3,500 Model 3’s a week, would soon rise to 5,000 a week. “It’s quite likely that we’ll achieve 5,000 at the end of the month,” Musk said. “It’s like, whew. I tell you, it’s like the most excruciating and hellish several months I’ve maybe ever had. But I think we’re getting there.”
Musk also choked up while defending Tesla’s mission. “At Tesla we build our cars with love,” he said. “At a lot of other companies, they’re built by marketing or the finance department and there’s no soul. We’re not perfect, but we pour our heart and soul into it and we really care.”
Tesla is still not planning to raise more cash soon
Musk reiterated a forecast that he made during Tesla’s last earnings call. “It’s really looking like we’re going to have positive GAAP net income next quarter as well as positive cash flow in Q3 and Q4,” he said. (Positive cash flows will help Tesla finance it operations with new capital.) “And we do not expect to raise any incremental debt or equity.”
Tesla’s shares had been slumping since their peak last summer amid concern that Model 3 production delays would weigh on its finances and force it to raise more cash. The company’s share price fell 2% Tuesday before the meeting, but had more than made up that ground after it finished during extended trading.
“Fully vegan vehicles” is a thing
Tesla began using synthetic leather on its seats last year, but representative from PETA asked about the company’s continued use of leather on Tesla steering wheels and gear shifts. The company replied that customers can special order “fully vegan vehicles” if they so choose. Musk added that the upcoming Tesla Y would use no leather at all.
Tesla won’t sell motorbikes because Musk nearly died on one
Although Musk was sporting a leather (!) motorcycle jacket over a Butter Robot t-shirt during the meeting, he said Tesla has no plans to expand into motorcycles.
Here’s Musk’s explanation why. “I actually used to ride motorcycles when I was a kid, and did dirt-biking for like eight years or something, and had a road bike until I was 17 and was almost killed by a truck,” he said. “So we’re not going to do motorcycles.” (Musk also crashed an expensive McLaren F1 in 2000, although that didn’t deter him from manufacturing cars.)
Musk knows he’s terrible at keeping to schedules
After a shareholder said his trust in Tesla’s timelines had eroded, Musk replied: “I think I do have issues with time. I have a condition: When my brother and I were catching a bus to school he would lie about the time. He would say it was later than it actually was, and we would always catch the bus.”
For shareholders weary about Tesla’s production delays, Musk held out hope. “I’m trying to recalibrate these estimates as much as possible,” he said. “I could say when I think it will occur, but I’m typically optimistic about these things. Hopefully less optimistic over time.” Tesla’s rise is due in good part to Musk’s optimism. A little more realism may just help the company to keep growing.