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Musk teases new Tesla models at Investor Day

Tesla stock drops as Investor Day’s big picture theme proves thin on future product

3 Mar 2023

TESLA’S first Investor Day was free of new product reveals, instead majoring on CEO Elon Musk’s vision for streamlined vehicle manufacturing and sustainable energy production, although the presentation did tease the company's next-generation car platform and hint at two upcoming models including what appears to be a van.


It was evident that Mr Musk plans on positioning Tesla as a driving force in the widespread shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, as he outlined his ambitious plan for the next few decades. Of course, in true Musk fashion, details were murky.


Tesla stock fell by around five per cent during the event as investors, analysts, media and customers waited with bated breath for details of upcoming vehicle launches; the event was a departure from the company’s infamous product reveal extravaganzas.


Instead, Mr Musk’s strong sustainability focus along with the presentation's lack of specific vehicle details and scant information on long-term financial targets appears to have left investors stumped.


“I really wanted today to be not just about Tesla investors who own stock, but really anyone who is an investor in Earth,” Mr Musk said.


His ‘Master Plan 3’ (the third iteration of the Tesla business roadmap), involves renewable grid power, electrified transport, installation of heat pumps in homes, hydrogen for industrial use, and lastly sustainable aviation and marine options.


“There is a clear path to sustainable energy on Earth. It doesn’t require destroying natural habitats. It doesn’t require us to be austere and stop using electricity and sort of be in the cold or anything,” Musk said.


High on the agenda was showcasing a more efficient vehicle manufacturing method and reduced production footprint, which Tesla has dubbed the ‘unboxed process’.


“We knew we had to improve the process further, and with Cyber Truck we designed a vehicle around a vision that actually started with the manufacturing process,” said Tesla design lead Franz Von Holzhausen.


“It actually created a very efficient end process and one of the most dynamic designs ever, I believe.”


The modular process involves building smaller sections of the vehicle without the need to later disassemble, compared with traditional assembly lines that involve an element of disassembly following paint.


“You take all these stamped panels, you put them together, then you put them in a framing station, you build a body that looks something like a car, you put the doors on and then you paint them. Once you get the colour, you take the doors off, and then you start putting the interior in the car,” explained Tesla head engineer Lars Moravy.


“If we’re going to scale the way we want to do, we have to rethink manufacturing again.”


Tesla’s modular unboxed process enables more people to work on sections of the car at the same time, leading to a claimed 44 per cent operator density improvement with “less time doing nothing” and cost savings of “up to 50 per cent”.


“It means we’re doing more work on the car more of the time,” Mr Moravy said.


“When we take all of these tested sub-assemblies and put them together, we finally assemble the car only one time.”


The next-generation platform will be built out of a new ‘gigafactory' situated just south of the Texas border in Monterrey, Mexico and around 622km from Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas.


As well as the new Mexican plant announced at Tesla Investor Day, upgrades will also be made to the company’s existing Gigafactories in the US, China, and Germany to improve production capabilities.


Tesla is also finalising a next-generation 48-volt electric vehicle platform that will debut on the Cyber Truck ute that is slated to enter production toward the end of this year, while the company also plans to introduce an electric drive motor that requires no rare earth elements.


Moving to a 48-volt system reduces the current compared to 12V architecture that became the automotive industry standard in the 1960s by a factor of four, enabling the use of smaller, lighter wires, controllers and e-fuses (replacing conventional fuses and relays).


Tesla says it will also design 100 per cent of the new 48V controllers in-house to alleviate supply constraints.


A next-generation Tesla vehicle platform will cover a range of vehicle segments, in line with Mr Musk’s plan to electrify all transportation types, and a graph showed during the presentation claimed significantly lower operating costs compared to the existing platform.


Unfortunately, the company shared no specific details about the rumoured low-cost ‘Model 2’, although it did tease a potential entry-level small car model in the presentation albeit veiled under a cloth.


"I'd love to show you what I mean, and unveil the next-generation car, but you're going to have to trust me on that until a later date," said Mr Von Holzhausen.


The other secret vehicle, similarly veiled, looks like a small commercial van or people mover. Such a model has been rumoured to be in the works and share the Cyber Truck’s underpinnings.


Production of the Cybertruck itself is confirmed tol kick off in 2023, while the Semi prime mover is already being delivered to customers in the United States although is too wide for use in Australia under current regulations.

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