The electric car manufacturer Tesla has traditionally avoided advertising, but CEO Elon Musk now wants to break with this line. "We're going to try some advertising and see how it goes," Musk said at Tesla's shareholder meeting in Austin, Texas on Tuesday. Given the high demand, Tesla did not need paid ads for a long time.
Musk used his own popularity and other means as marketing tools - especially the online platform Twitter, which he has since acquired. But that seems to be increasingly exhausted - this year Tesla lowered the prices several times.
Tesla does not yet have a mature plan for advertising, Musk told the US broadcaster CNBC after the annual general meeting. "I've only just agreed to that, there's no full strategy yet."
However, ads could be a way to expand Tesla's customer base. The e-car pioneer is pursuing ambitious growth targets, but the competition is getting fiercer. In addition, there is a threat of economic headwinds. Even Tesla is not "immune" to recession risks, Musk said. He expects a difficult economic environment in the next twelve months. Musk again criticized that the interest rate level of the US Federal Reserve is slowing down the economy. Higher interest rates make car loans, among other things, less attractive.
In the interview, Musk reiterated his claim that Tesla is on the verge of making its vehicles autonomous. Tesla is the only automaker that believes it can achieve full autonomy with a software update, he said. It looks like it will happen this year, Musk said cautiously when asked.
Reminded by CNBC journalist David Faber that years ago he had repeatedly announced that autonomous driving would soon be mastered, Musk said he was probably a "pathological optimist". But now he is confident that he drove through San Francisco for several days without having to take much control of the vehicle from the software. Like years ago, he once again promised that Tesla owners would be able to send their cars off as robotic taxis to earn money.
Tesla is letting customers in the US test a new version of the "Autopilot" assistance software called "completely self-driving". At the same time, the group emphasizes that "autopilot" does not turn the vehicles into self-driving cars and that the people at the wheel retain responsibility. According to the definition commonly used in the industry, the variant in the test is no more than an assistance system.
Meanwhile, General Motors subsidiary Cruise and Google sister company Waymo are driving robotic taxis through San Francisco without a driver at the wheel. Musk claimed in the interview that Waymo technology only works on precisely measured roads and is confused by changes such as accidents or construction work. Tesla, on the other hand, is further and has “practically” developed a solution that works everywhere, he said.
User videos of tests of the new "Autopilot" version from the past few months showed some erratic behavior of the software. After several accidents, the "autopilot" system is also the focus of investigations by US authorities.
In the hour-long CNBC interview, Musk also defended his controversial tweets and condemned working from home. Among other things, the manager was asked about his recent tweets about financier and Holocaust survivor George Soros, in which he claimed, among other things, that he hates humanity. When asked if he was hurting his company's business with such tweets, Musk ticked off: "I will say what I want to say - and if the consequence of it is losing money, then so be it."
The tech billionaire, who ordered all Tesla and Twitter employees to return to the office after the pandemic, called working from home "morally wrong". Why should people who build or repair cars and houses go to work – and those who sit in front of computers shouldn't, he argued.
Musk was convinced that there were Chinese plans to occupy Taiwan. It is China's official policy to bring the island under control. Therefore, he thinks there is "a certain inevitability in the situation". The United States has always warned China against military action in Taiwan. A large part of the global production of state-of-the-art chips is manufactured on the island. Tesla would be less affected by a conflict over Taiwan than other companies, Musk said: "I wouldn't be sure where you would get an iPhone, for example." Tesla has a large factory in Shanghai, China.
On the subject of artificial intelligence, Musk claimed that Tesla is superior to everyone: "I'm not even sure who number two is." Musk was one of the founders of ChatGPT developer OpenAI. "I am the reason OpenAI exists." Meanwhile, Musk founded his own new AI company, X.AI, which he didn't want to talk about just yet.
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