Car Industry

Tesla shareholder meeting recap: Elon Musk is still chairman, free Autopilot trial coming

We also got teasers of the Model Y, info on the new Roadster and Semi, the location of the next factory (Shanghai) and that Elon is a Rick and Morty fan.

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Tuesday's Tesla annual shareholders meeting was thankfully a little less dramatic than its Q1 earnings call, because we would not have been able to handle more high-tension Elon-shaming analysts. Instead what we got was a combination of a big vote of confidence (shareholders decided to keep him as the chairman of the board), real human feelings (he got a little choked up after the announcement that he would remain chairman), business-as-usual (Baby, Model 3 production will hit 5K, I swear, just give me one more chance!), some actually interesting updates (free Autopilot trial) and what felt like some super optimistic timelines (battery pack price of under $100/kilowatt hour in under two years). Let's break it down.

First of all, on the business side, Tesla shareholders voted to keep Kimbal Musk, Antonio Gracias and James Murdoch on the board despite some people's concerns they may not be truly independent members of the board. Tesla shareholders also voted to keep their golden calf... I mean Elon Musk as board director despite protest from one guy with 12 shares. This led to Elon having visible feelings in public (maybe a first?) and was kind of a nice change of pace. Finally, based on the recommendations of the board, PricewaterhouseCoopers will act as Tesla's public accounting firm.

Promises of upgraded Autopilot, cheaper batteries and more Model 3 production were among the highlights of the 2018 Tesla Shareholders Meeting.

Tesla

Model 3

Once all the "boring stuff" was out of the way, Elon trotted out on stage in a Belstaff jacket and a Butter Robot shirt to much fanfare and applause. He told the assembled investors about how Tesla builds cars with love and how the company really cares. With the crowd sufficiently softened up, Musk waded in with the one-two punch of Tesla Model 3 being the best-selling premium midsize sedan in the US and how he expects the $35,000 Model 3 to enter production by the end of the year. He also mentioned that the big T was on track to build 3,500 Model 3's per week by the end of the month.

Superchargers

With the Tesla-faithful whipping themselves into a frenzy, he went on to talk about Superchargers and how the company was on track to have 10,000 Superchargers in service across the globe. He also said that we could expect the third version of the Supercharger by the end of the year and that it would facilitate major changes in infrastructure. This led into him telling us that by next year, Gigafactory will produce more batteries than all other factories on Earth combined. Then he wandered off into Tesla solar roof stuff and a tangent about Gene Wilder's house (yeah, I know.)

Other big news includes the announcement that starting this month, Tesla stores would offer test drives of Model 3, with the goal of having all Tesla stores offering them by the end of next month. He also mentioned that Tesla was working with insurance companies to try and lower the cost of Model 3 insurance such that it would undercut BMW's 3-series by as much as 30 percent.

We've now seen two Model Y teaser images and it's a crossover, we're guessing.

Tesla

Autopilot

Autopilot was a hot topic, as you might expect with Musk doubling-down on his no lidar talk during the Q&A session. The most interesting aspect of the Autopilot conversation, though, was Musk saying that Tesla plans to offer a free trial of autopilot to those Tesla owners who have yet to pony up the dough and opt-in fully. Will this see a big spike in adoption or a big spike in Autopilot-related crashes because people are lazy? Time will tell. Importantly, he also mentioned there is a planned Autopilot upgrade rollout happening later this week that would be a marked improvement over the current version.

Tesla Semi and Roaster 2.0

The Tesla Semi and Roadster 2.0 both also got a little time in the spotlight. In addition to a white version of the new Roadster being positioned in front of the shareholder meeting, Musk alluded once again to the fact that the figures he quoted last year at its Gigafactory unveiling were for the "base model." He also mentioned it would be getting something called the "SpaceX option package," though we've no clue what that could be. At best, it could mean rocket boosters, at worst it could mean your car tries to drop into the sea when you come to a stop.

The Tesla Semi has apparently been upgraded over and above the figures that were mentioned during its unveiling, something that Elon alluded to during the Q1 earnings call. He also mentioned that thanks to continued design revisions, the Semi would absolutely be a global vehicle.

The Tesla Semi design and technology have apparently been further refined since its debut last year to give it more of what truckers crave.

Tesla

On the manufacturing side, it appears that Tesla is nearly ready to announce its first production facility outside the United States. As many have speculated, it will be located in Shanghai, China and will combine battery production, powertrain production and general assembly into one location, as will all future Tesla factories. Musk also told shareholders to expect an announcement relating to the rumored European Gigafactory at the end of the year.

Tesla is also focusing on improving its service centers, increasing their size and adding in body shops prestocked with parts that could, in theory at least, offer same day body repairs on some items. This would be a massive improvement over the current system which requires private body shops to order parts directly from the factory, a process that can take weeks.

Lastly, on the subject of Model Y, Musk stated that we could expect an unveiling in March 2019 and production to begin in early 2020.

So, now we all get to pull out our Elon Musk bingo cards and see which of these things actually happen according to his (admittedly optimistic) schedule. Also, make sure you just black out the Tesla motorcycle square, because apparently that's never ever going to happen.