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Elon Musk’s ‘Master Plan’ for Tesla Is Big on Vision but Small on Details

Tesla CEO and billionnaire Elon MuskTesla CEO and billionnaire Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon MuskPhotograph by Anadolu Agency — Getty Images

A commercial truck, a public bus, small SUVs, a pickup …

Elon Musk’s latest “master plan” for Tesla Motors (TSLA) laid out where he wanted to take the electric car maker, but provided few details on how he planned to get there.

Musk on Wednesday sketched out his vision for an integrated carbon-free energy enterprise offering products and services beyond electric cars and batteries.

What he didn’t do was explain how the plan would be funded and executed. Tesla is already burning through cash and has a history of failing to deliver on its production promises.

“It’s beyond us how much fundraising Tesla will need to carry out this master plan,” Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a note to clients.

“The plan is like before – or like much of what Tesla does – long on exciting visions of the future and short on financial details.”

Tesla’s shares were down about 2% at $223.64 in early trading on Thursday. No analysts had changed their price targets or ratings on Tesla’s stock.

Up to Wednesday’s close, the company’s shares had risen 5% since July 8 after Musk tweeted that he was working on a second master plan for the company he founded in 2003.


Idiocy Squared

In a blog post titled “Master Plan, Part Deux,” Musk said: “Starting a car company is idiotic and an electric car company is idiocy squared.” He went on to say that “civilization will collapse” in the absence of a sustainable energy economy.

Musk also restated his argument that Tesla was right to agree to buy solar panel installer SolarCity (SCTY).

SolarCity, in which Musk holds a 22% stake, is also gobbling up cash.

“At a high level the document is aimed at explaining how (Tesla’s) actions fit into a larger picture of accelerating the advent of sustainable energy,” Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache wrote. “(But) the document is relatively short on details, and it does not contain any economic or financial objectives.”

Such details will be critical when Tesla seeks to raise money to fund its ambitious plans.

Tesla raised $1.7 billion in May by selling new shares to fuel its projects, particularly the development and production launch of its Model 3 car lineup.

$4.2 Billion Hole

In delivering on its original master plan, Tesla “… dug a $4.2 billion hole on the financial side that has necessitated a series of fund raises totaling $6.2 billion,” Johnson said.

Some analysts have long questioned Tesla’s ability to smoothly and quickly transition to higher-volume production.

The company reported this month that it had missed its vehicle delivery target for the second consecutive quarter, putting it on track to fall short of its annual goal.

Tesla has said it wants to produce 500,000 cars a year by 2018, compared with 80,000-90,000 this year.

UBS analyst Colin Langan said he was surprised by the announcement of an eventual heavy duty truck and bus.

“We question if it can handle the added complexity of varying platforms when it is currently having issues with only two models,” he wrote.

Musk’s original strategy, set out in 2006, included a plan to build an expensive sports car and then use profits to build affordable cars as well as sustainable energy products.

Of the 17 brokerages covering Tesla’s stock, four rate it “buy” or higher and eight “hold,” while five recommend “sell.” The median price target is $234.