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Elon Musk calls COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders 'fascist' on Tesla Q1 earnings call

Things got weird, fast.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
3 min read

Tesla's doing well in 2020 so far, but Elon's got opinions.

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earnings calls generally have the potential to be something of a rollercoaster ride -- remember when Elon shouted at journalists? -- and Wednesday's was no different. Musk talked about a number of things on this week's call, including Tesla's planned Battery Day, Model Y subframe castings and, uh, some rather strong opinions about the shelter-in-place orders made in an attempt to stop the coronavirus pandemic.

Let's start with the not-as-controversial news. Musk said that Tesla plans to offer its Full Self-Driving package as a subscription option later this year. That's notable because, while the company has been working on adding features to the plan, it still doesn't seem to be anywhere near offering real autonomy -- at least not for public consumption.

Musk and company contend that while the service will be available as a subscription, it would still behoove customers ordering cars to go ahead and tick that $7,000 option box and roll the cost of FSD into their vehicle loan. Is that actually the case? It depends on the buyer, most likely.

Next, we got some info on Tesla's planned Battery Day. This is the battery tech sequel to the company's Autonomy Investor Day that it held last year at its Silicon Valley headquarters. Musk said on the call that Battery Day will be one of the most important and exciting in Tesla's history, and that the company is targeting the third week of May for it to happen. He also dropped that it would occur in either California (likely at Tesla's HQ again) or Texas.

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On the subject of Tesla's cars, Musk claims that the EPA botched the recertification of the Model S' latest range bump to 391 miles by leaving the keys in the vehicle overnight and leaving a door open, which allegedly caused the car's lights to stay on, leaving it in a "waiting for driver" state. While we have no way of proving whether this is actually what happened, Musk did promise to send the car back to the EPA for retesting when the agency reopens.

Another interesting tidbit came in the form of Model Y's new cast rear body structure. While the uses a structure made from over 70 pieces of stamped steel, Model Y uses an extremely advanced two-piece cast aluminum structure that reduces not only complexity but also weight and cost. Further, Tesla plans to simplify it even more later this year by going to a one-piece casting. Musk claims that this will be the largest and most complex casting used in any car.

And finally, we get to Elon's problematic outburst on the subject of COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place orders that have been enacted to slow its spread. Earlier this week on Twitter, Musk posted, "FREE AMERICA NOW," which by itself was a reasonably clear declaration of his feelings on the matter. Still, during the call, he opted to expound further.

"Is it right to infringe upon people's rights? I think people are going to be very angry over this, and are very angry over this," Musk opined. "This is fascist. This is not democratic. This is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom."

Now, we're not going to get into the lives-or-livelihood debate here, but it's worth noting that Musk's opinion is in direct contradiction to the wishes of California Gov. Gavin Newsom as well as safety bodies such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tesla didn't respond immediately to Roadshow's request for comment.

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