Updating his 10-year old master plan, Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla Motors, wrote on his company blog of his vision to expand the company's horizon to a Solar City, land transportation and new vehicle segments.
Musk mentioned that in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, it's imperative to achieve a sustainable energy economy. As expected, he followed the problem with his solution of combining Tesla and Solar City, which Tesla offered to acquire last week. Stressing the need to combine these entities, he wrote, “We can't do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies. That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history. Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.”
Obviously, Musk is turning no stone unturned to gather investor support.
Talking about upcoming vehicles, Musk wrote that the company will expand its product offerings by adding a compact SUV and a “new kind of pickup truck.” Broadening the company's scope beyond personal transportation, Tesla will look at heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport, which would mean buses. Surprisingly, these vehicles aren't slated for the distant future and are already in early-stages of development. Musk wrote that these vehicle will be unveiled next year but frankly, Tesla's track record of consistently missing timelines might see the unveiling pushed further. He also wrote about the Tesla semi, which he thinks will significantly reduce cargo transportation cost along with increasing safety.
He also mentions how autonomous vehicles could see a downsizing in the physical footprint of buses and transform the role of a bus driver to that of a fleet manager. Talking of safety, he wrote that worldwide regulatory approval of autonomous driving will require fleet testing of around 10 billion km. He also mentioned Tesla's Beta labelling of its Autopilot system, stating that it's called beta in order to reduce complacency and indicate that the system will continue to improve till the time it's about 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, after which the beta label will be done away with.
Increasing the scope of autonomous driving to vehicle sharing, Musk wrote that “When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere. Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.
You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you're at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost.”
Musk in the closing lines of his blog went on to summarise his Master Plan with the following points:
Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it
The entire plan from Musk is centred around one objective – gathering the trust and support of investors and it's not too hard to see why. Last week, when Tesla announced its desire to acquire SolarCity, many investors and analysts questioned the rationale. Classified as a risky investment by analysts, Musk is trying every method possible to convince investors to believe in his vision of a renewable energy group, that'll develop solar roofs connected with battery storage, and an expanded vehicle product portfolio.
It might not be that easy though since the rest of the vision too has been written in a vague manner with very little details. Given the challenges Model 3 faced and how Tesla's previous models have consistently missed production deadlines, it'll take a lot to unveil electric trucks and buses next year.
Tesla is one company that misses deadlines and targets frequently but the resolve and outspoken behaviour of Musk has kept investors roped in, allowing the core objectives to be largely fulfilled. While I'm not doubting Musk or Tesla's capabilities, he definitely won't have an easy ride with investors if Tesla continues with the SolarCity acquisition and falls behind schedule on the listed ambitious plans.