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Published on July 8th, 2018 | by Zachary Shahan


Nope, Elon Didn’t Promise You A Unicorn. Stop Lying.

July 8th, 2018 by  

I’ll be honest, I’m a little tired of the phrase “Elon promised [insert your favorite blue unicorn or Model 3 production target].” I’ve actually had this draft started — just the title — for over two months, but it doesn’t seem to lose its relevance.

My problem might be that I’m sometimes too pedantic, but this phrase comes up over and over again, is indeed misleading, Tesla CEO Elon Musk actually went out of his way many times to explain that forecasts were not promises, and the whole thing just irks me.

For the most part, the claims about “false promises” have involved production and delivery targets. But those obviously weren’t promises. If they were, Elon and Tesla could be sued by investors, so there are always disclaimers with this sort of thing. Furthermore, Elon has repeatedly gone out of his way to explain the uncertainty of production ramp timelines (he’s been doing this for years), how a bottleneck with an individual component of the vehicle could slow things down, the whole “production hell” narrative, etc.

Ironically, it seems to often be people who were most convinced Tesla wouldn’t meet its production targets who are most “upset” that Tesla has struggled with this. They also don’t give much (or any) time to the fact that quarterly Model 3 production is represented like a hockey stick on a line graph.

But, alas, what would the world be if we didn’t hyperventilate once or twice a day?

Will Q3 follow the trend or will some kind of “house of cards” come tumbling down as production collapses and the Tesla [TSLA] shorts and cynics are finally proven right? Yes, a decade of patience is almost superhuman, but some are capable of it. Haven’t you seen the Hollywood films about the lasting love that shorts & cynics can maintain for hating on a company, and especially its shamefully imperfect CEO?

Back to forecasts, there is a new one that I assume does come close to a promise. Elon indicated a while back that Tesla would definitely show a profit in Q3 or Q4 of this year. His wording was quite strong. In the annual shareholder meeting, however, Elon seemed to laughingly acknowledge that Tesla’s CFO and lawyers made it clear that he should be more cautious with claims like that. But let’s hope this target is indeed met and there are no consequences to the strong forecast.

Back to historically missed targets, none of them have been fun, but I doubt anyone presumed that Tesla had easy sailing ahead when Elon said they were entering “production hell.” Could the warnings have gotten more stark? However, as I’ve noted several times, I think long delays of the $35,000 Model 3 could do more harm to Tesla (because of how it affects sentiment among Tesla’s customer/fan base) than the financial challenge of squeezing out enough of the base Model 3’s to get the first early-morning reservation holders their cars. Not everyone has the patience, understanding, goodwill, or societal interests of Steve Bakker, Kyle Field, and me. It’s also just a bad, bad look when you consider how much emphasis was put on the $35,000 base price and the unfortunate point that the base model now seems like it will first hit garages in 2019.

In any case, there’s a difference between promises and targets, or promises and forecasts, so I hope people can stop mixing these things up. 

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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