A Tesla earnings call is always a fun experience. More often than not, Elon lets some little tidbit slip that wasn’t part of the script, much to the delight of the audience and consternation of the company’s lawyers. We know there will be talk of deliveries and gross margins and earnings before interest and taxes. GAAP and non-GAAP figures will be thrown around and a few questions will be asked from the steely eyed financial analysts on the call.
The big question on many people’s mind is, will the price of Tesla shares rise or fall as a result? The stock is down about a third from its all-time high in January. Will Elon deliver the goods to make it go back up? For many who are not shareholders, it’s just fun and useful to see how the Tesla story is unfolding. Here are a few topics that may tell the tale.
Editor’s note: Be sure to check in later on YouTube to watch our live coverage of the conference call, which includes all sorts of goodies.
Tesla has placed a huge bet on the Chinese market for electric cars, selecting Shanghai for its first new factory. But then there seemed to have been some bumps in the road for Tesla in that country this year. Or not.
First came news that Teslas had been banned from Chinese military installations because their cameras could inadvertently capture classified information. Then there were reports that sales were down significantly, something my colleague Johnna Crider exposed as false a few days ago. Then there was a minor recall for Chinese made Teslas that was a tempest in a teapot.
“The China growth story is the top of the list for Tesla,” Dan Ives, tech analyst with Wedbush Securities, tells CNN Business. “This is their key market. We believe 40% of their sales will come from there next year. I think that’s the linchpin to the stock going up or down.”
One of the constant complaints about Tesla is that it makes more money selling zero-emission credits to other manufacturers than it does selling cars. If its net income for the second quarter exceeds those credits, that will be a significant milestone for the company. “That would throw one of the core bear arguments against the stock out the window,” Dan Ives says. The consensus estimate is that Tesla will report net income of more than $600 million. In the first quarter, it made $518 million from selling credits.
In February, Tesla said it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin and would allow customers to pay for their cars using the digital currency. In April, the company announced it had netted $101 million from its Bitcoin transactions. The value of digital currencies can fluctuate wildly over short periods of time, which makes professional investors nervous.
For a while, Tesla stopped accepting Bitcoin payments, saying the platform used too much electrical power from fossil fuel sources. But now Elon says Bitcoin may soon be welcome again. Once again, Ives thinks dabbling in Bitcoin is a negative sign that worries investors, much like twisting the tail of the SEC or sparking up a phattie with Joe Rogen. Expect more on this topic to surface during the Q2 earnings call.
Supply Chain Concerns
It’s common knowledge that automakers around the world are struggling to manage a shortage of computer chips, the tiny devices that manage everything from blind spot detection to stability control and adaptive cruise control systems. Tesla is no exception. In addition, demand for lithium, nickel, and other raw materials to manufacture batteries is soaring as more and more manufacturers join the EV revolution. Analysts will be looking for information about how Tesla is managing its supply chains to control costs.
Tesla is moving full speed ahead to bring its two newest factories in Germany and Austin online while expanding its production facility in Shanghai to produce the Model Y. That’s a lot for any company to manage. It says both Germany and Austin will begin producing automobiles this year before transitioning to full production early next year. Investors will be anxiously awaiting updates on both new factories during the Q2 earnings call.
In March, Elon tweeted that there would likely be an update about the Cybertruck during the Q2 earnings call, so we will be paying close attention to any news on that front. Last week we reported that Musk is unconcerned about whether his unconventional electric pickup truck will be a sales hit, saying he likes it even if no one else does. (You either love it or hate it.)
Update probably in Q2. Cybertruck will be built at Giga Texas, so focus right now is on getting that beast built.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2021
With GM, Ford, and now Dodge saying they will have electric pickup trucks of their own soon, and the Rivian R1T set to debut in a few months, it will be interesting to see whether Americans will be able to tear themselves away from the traditional looking trucks they love or whether Tesla will trim its sails to make the Cybertruck more appealing to mainstream truck buyers.
The Supercharger Network
Last week, Musk tweeted, “We’re making our Supercharger network open to other EVs later this year.” Investors will be expecting to learn more about that announcement. Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a research note afterward, “By 2030, we conservatively estimate Tesla supercharging revenue of $2.9 billion, a figure which does not include any revenue from non-Tesla vehicles.” How much revenue could Tesla get from drivers of non-Tesla electric cars? That’s a question that is sure to be raised.
Another recent development is an announcement from Tesla that it will soon offer its “Full Self Driving” package on a subscription basis. This could be the biggest marketing bonanza since Coca-Cola decided to sell its elixir in bottles. Decades ago, the auto industry found out that leasing could unlock a torrent of new sales. Perhaps subscription services will have a similar impact on revenue. Lots of people might subscribe to a FSD package who would otherwise balk at spending $10,000 for it up front. People will want to hear more about this.
There will also likely be requests for more info on when the FSD V9 Beta will roll out to all Americans who paid for FSD. The last we heard, the answer was ~2 weeks — but that’s been the answer for ~7 months (if not more).
With everything else going on at Tesla, it’s easy to overlook the Tesla Semi that has been gestating for a few years now. Production should be beginning soon and investors will be hungry for details.
The jury is still out on whether Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity was a brilliant marketing move that fit perfectly with Tesla’s mission or naked nepotism designed to bail out two of Elon’s cousins (as some people suing Mr. Musk argue), but there is no question Tesla is one of the global leaders in grid-scale energy storage. Elon himself has said he expects energy storage will create as much revenue as Tesla’s car business. This whole topic is usually found somewhere toward the end of the official earnings report, but it is really the key to whether Tesla shares will become more attractive to investors in the short and medium term.
Check back later to see how many topics we guessed right about and which ones came up that we didn’t anticipate. We’re not perfect, but we’re usually pretty darn close about these things.