After the Tesla earnings call, I was thinking, what has really changed? Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. Consider what we learn from examining the following questions that most investors had 2 years ago as the Model 3 production ramp began:
- Could Tesla build a car at high volume?
- Could Tesla make money selling a car similar to the Model S at half the price?
- Would Tesla’s huge backlog of customers wait for the company to get it right?
- Could Tesla scale its delivery and service teams to support the growth?
- Could Tesla expand the Supercharger network to avoid a disaster returning from grandma’s house at Thanksgiving?
- Would Tesla be able to scale back its expensive referral program and still drive growth without spending billions on advertising?
- Would legacy automakers be able to use their experience in volume manufacturing to crush Tesla with better EVs?
- Was there any demand for the Model 3 once Tesla satisfied the pent up demand from its waiting list?
- Could Tesla sell a car profitably in the US once the federal tax credits went away?
- Would Tesla be able to build a gigafactory outside the US affordably (remembering the company got Fremont for a song from Toyota and GM)?
- Would Tesla learn anything from its painful ramp of the Model 3?
- Would Elon ever learn that Wall Street rewards those who under-promise and over-deliver?
- Would Tesla avoid the temptation to redesign everything in the Model Y and just build the high Model 3 the world has been waiting for — quickly, before competition steals the space?
- Would Tesla slow its growth if it couldn’t get money from Wall Street or would it raise a ton of new money?
- Would Tesla ever find a way to be profitable?
- How would Tesla fund its growth to achieve its mission of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy?
I don’t mean to suggest all the questions in investors minds are answered. We are all curious to hear what Tesla has to say about batteries in April and the one big question that lingers is: When will Full Self Driving be released? Elon said last night in ~3 more months, but this is the one timeline that Tesla has continued to miss, even as it has learned to meet and even beat the other deadlines. Manufacturing is hard, artificial intelligence software is harder.