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The Life and Troubling Times of Tesla

Tesla cars while the EV market slowing down

Tesla, the well-publicized leader of electric vehicles, has seemed to hit a bump in the road. For the first time in four years, the company announced a decline in global sales the first quarter of this year. Tesla’s sales drop didn’t come as a huge surprise, since there’s evidence of the EV market slowing down, but not every EV market is seeing such a decline, especially in countries like China. This raises greater concerns about Tesla’s future moving forward as the EV market leader. And it seems evident that even Elon Musk is a bit stressed as Tesla’s announced major price cuts on nearly all models. Can Tesla remain ahead of the pack when it comes to EV sales and innovation? That’s a question many investors are asking as increasing ambiguity surrounds Tesla’s future directions.

cars charging while the EV market slowing down
What does the EV market slowing down mean for Tesla? Nothing good…

(The EV market is cooling–read all about it in this Bold story.)

It seems quite amazing that Tesla was founded more than two decades ago. Early on, many had doubts that a new player to the automotive industry could ever compete with giants like General Motors and Toyota. But driven by Musk, the company’s outspoken and eccentric entrepreneur leader, Tesla showed it could do just that. As GM and others struggled with EVs, Tesla rose to the top of the market. As a luxury electric vehicle producer, Tesla set the standard. But now that the market has matured, Tesla has seen its EV market slowing down while others’ have increased. And Tesla’s sales drop as of late could spell even larger troubles ahead. Thus, there’s little doubt these are troubling times for Tesla. And it will be interesting to see if Musk can once again prove the naysayers wrong.

Troubling Signs for Tesla

Over the last year, there was fairly strong evidence that the U.S. EV market was slowing. Rising interest rates and inflation on most goods meant less disposable income for many Americans. As a result, a smaller number decided to make the transition to electric cars. And even fewer decided to invest in Tesla’s line of electric vehicles, which tend to be a bit pricier. In response, Tesla decided to cut its prices in an effort to stimulate greater demand. But unfortunately for the company, it still witnessed a decline in sales in addition reduced profit margins on each one. Tesla’s sales drop might suggest the world isn’t ready to make the transition to electric at this time. But this isn’t the case everywhere. In Europe and Asia, EV sales have increased, not declined. This is why Tesla’s sales drop is much more concerning.

(Can China make electric vehicles Americans would want? Read all about it in this Bold story.)

Reduced sales and profits are notably troubling developments for Tesla. This is why the company has seen a 40% decrease in its share price over the last year. But the reasons behind Tesla’s sales drop is similarly worth evaluating. Aside from unfavorably economic times, Tesla is also seeing a rise in its competition. BYD in particular, a major Chinese EV automaker, has introduced several affordable EV models that are becoming increasingly popular. There is little evidence that there has been an EV market slowing down in China thus far. Some even predict BYD may soon enter into the American EV market to test the waters here. If so, Tesla will not only have to deal with formidable competition in China but in the U.S. as well. This too is a worrisome development for the company at present.

a Tesla car sitting in the dark
The winds may blow unfavorably for the EV market, but Tesla will survive… right?

Tesla’s Initial Reaction

Earlier this month, Tesla announced it would be laying off 10% of its workforce due to Tesla’s sales drop. Musk’s comments essentially stated that the company had to adjust to an evolving EV market. But in reference the market’s dynamic state, it’s not clear if he believed the EV market was slowing down. Certainly, this has appeared to be the case in the U.S., which is why Musk dropped prices last year. But Musk has also seemingly decided on some other adjustments, including discontinuing investments into a more affordable EV model. And Tesla may be moving more aggressively in the direction of self-driving robo-taxis instead. This would suggest Musk has a larger “master plan” that goes beyond cutting back on the company’s human resource costs.

In addition to the layoffs, Tesla is also reducing prices on nearly all its models in overseas markets. In China and Germany, Tesla’s popular Model 3 was significantly reduced by more than $2,000. Similar price cuts were also announced in other European countries as well as in the Middle East and Africa. Tesla’s sales drop also triggered reductions in the price of its Model X, Model Y, and Model S. And the company marked its self-driving software package down by roughly $4,000. Depending on consumer responses, these cuts will determine if an EV market slowing down is actually occurring. If Tesla’s sales remain sluggish while other companies’ EV sales rise, larger issues will need to be addressed.

End of an Era for Tesla?

Tesla’s sales drop and a white car
Tesla’s sales drop bodes ill for the EV industry.

As markets mature, it’s not unusual for advancing competition to drive prices down for various products. Combined with technological advances, lower prices for EVs should therefore be expected. This may be explaining Tesla’s sales drop along with consumers having a greater variety of brands and models from which to pick. In other words, Tesla’s EV market slowing down may reflect a natural evolution of the EV market. It therefore makes sense that Tesla would lower its prices to better compete with recent developments. But with few new models being released, especially in a more affordable range, it has to be asked whether Tesla will continue to dominate the EV market.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that Musk bounced back from adversity. Countless times, he has travelled the path less traveled and came out ahead. In this regard, tesla’s sales drop may just be a temporary rough patch that’s part of inherent growing pains. Even if there’s an EV market slowing down, Tesla has other options for revenue generation including autonomous self-driving vehicles. Therefore, it may be that Tesla’s dominance in the EV market is declining. But in all likelihood, this shift is more of the company’s evolution than it is their demise.


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