One of the top cleantech stories of recent weeks (or months) in the mainstream media has been Elon Musk’s trial regarding Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity. We haven’t covered it, because we covered the acquisition years ago in depth and we don’t typically cover lawsuits, but since it’s been so broadly covered, let’s touch upon some things that may have been left out of the media coverage.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon Steve Mark Ryan’s video where he talked about how Elon Musk and the plaintiff’s attorney went at it. I grabbed some popcorn and dove right in — and learned some more details surrounding the SolarCity acquisition that I personally didn’t know since I wasn’t following Tesla back then. These details are well known to those who followed Tesla pretty closely for many years, back into 2016 at least, but a large number of us started following the company more recently.
There are a few key takeaways from Steven’s video that I wanted to share:
- 85% of Tesla’s shareholders voted in favor of the SolarCity acquisition (side note: in an initial survey on CleanTechnica about the proposal, 74% of readers approved of the idea, and a later survey brought that figure up to 89% — almost the exact same as the eventual Tesla shareholder vote — click that link above for more on the topic).
- Elon Musk’s Tesla Master Plan included plans for Tesla Energy — 10 years before Tesla’s SolarCity acquisition.
- The acquisition led to the world’s only vertically integrated sustainable energy company.
- Mainstream media FUD’s effect on the stock is weakening.
Shareholders From Both Companies Approved Of Tesla’s Acquisition
From the recent reports and the lawsuit, it would seem as if Elon Musk randomly bought SolarCity. Articles claiming that shareholders were upset and were suing gave the impression that Elon took the company hostage, when this is not the case at all if you just look at the shareholder vote (which Elon abstained from). Steven emphasized several times in his video that shareholders from both companies — himself included — voted in favor of Tesla’s SolarCity acquisition. Somehow, though, that has hardly been mentioned in coverage of this trial.
Steven pointed out that one of the keys to Tesla’s success today is its vertical integration — a brilliant idea that made so much sense. For those who don’t understand what this means, there are two types of business integration strategies: vertical and horizontal. In the case of the latter, a company would buy a competitor — for example, Tesla buying Ford or another automaker. Vertical integration, however, is a strategy that moves the company forward or backward to cover more of the supply chain. Since Tesla already had plans to become an energy company, it seems like this was a brilliant move. Today, Tesla is able to increase its profits with more control over its products, and solar technology is blossoming like a flower in the summer.
In Tesla’s 2016 blog post, which announced the combination of Tesla and Solar City, Tesla stated:
“Solar and storage are at their best when they’re combined. As one company, Tesla (storage) and SolarCity (solar) can create fully integrated residential, commercial and grid-scale products that improve the way that energy is generated, stored and consumed.”
This Was An Opportunity For Tesla To Fulfill More Of Its Master Plan
There were many voices of opposition, doom, and gloom surrounding this decision and all were claiming that Tesla would fail. However, most of the media and critics forgot Tesla’s mission, which is to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy. That core mission doesn’t even reference cars or transport, ironically. Tesla isn’t here just to sell solar or cars. Anyone can do that. Tesla is here to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy, which involves both.
In Elon’s first Tesla Master Plan blog post, he got into more detail on what the company’s goals were:
- Build sports car
- Use that money to build an affordable car
- Use that money to build an even more affordable car
- While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric power generation options
Take note of the bold text (emphasis added), the date of that plan, and the date of the SolarCity acquisition, and then look at today’s progress and compare. It’s crystal clear that under the guidance of Tesla’s shareholders, who made the final votes on the 2016 acquisition, this was the best move for Tesla to pursue its original vision.
Tesla isn’t just trying to make money, it’s trying to make large-scale changes to society, and today we can look back and see that the company is doing just that. EVs are in the mainstream and are gaining market share globally with each passing year. Tesla is the leader of the automotive stock market, and even though it doesn’t sell many EVs compared to legacy auto, its voice is loud and clear. Legacy automakers have stopped mocking Tesla and have started trying to compete or even copy it. This type of change doesn’t happen overnight, and we are still witnessing the changes. Tesla’s not finished — not by a long shot.
Mainstream Media FUD’s Effect On The Stock Is Weakening
Steven and others on Twitter have pointed this out. No matter how negative the headlines have gotten, it seems that as of late, the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) some create about Tesla isn’t working. Perhaps this is why many have taken shots at Elon Musk, calling him “billionaire” as an insult. Yes, he’s a billionaire, but he didn’t steal money from the poor as the negative connotation would have.
What Elon did (after starting a few companies based on his interest in computers and selling them for a good amount of money) was put all of his money on the line in order to pursue his largest visions — two of those being the electric transportation revolution and the solar energy or clean energy revolution. To many people’s surprise, he has succeeded much more than he has failed and Tesla is now a well integrated sustainable energy company that offers the most competitive, top selling electric cars in the world as well as the cheapest rooftop solar power in the United States.