Elon Musk’s Tesla delivers harsh warning to workers

crystal
6 Min Read


Tesla  (TSLA)  shares edged higher Wednesday amid reports that Elon Musk is looking to mimic one of the tech sector’s biggest themes, aiming to revive a stock that has shed nearly $200 billion in value over the past six months.

Tech-sector layoffs have dominated the job market headlines, even as the Labor Department noted the strongest hiring trends in more than a year last month, as companies are seeking to reshape their workforces ahead of the ongoing shift to artificial intelligence and related technologies.

Related: Tesla higher as Morgan Stanley sees AI potential offsetting margin pressure

Andrew Challenger, a senior vice president at consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, noted that tech layoffs surged to just over 15,800 last month, the most since May of last year, and nearly tripled from their December totals.

“These layoffs are also driven by broader economic trends and a strategic shift towards increased automation and AI adoption in various sectors,” he said in the January Challenger report. “Although in most cases, companies point to cost-cutting as the main driver.”

The latter could be a larger portion of the reports that suggest Elon Musk has asked managers to define which positions within their reports are critical to the group’s business.

Tesla asks which employee roles are crucial

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that performance reviews for some Tesla employees have been canceled, adding that U.S. managers have been asked to make a “binary” assessment of roles across the electric vehicle maker.

Tesla employs around 140,400 worldwide, with major production facilities in Texas, California, Germany and China.

“We are constantly looking for what we can do to reduce costs, and the team is constantly going and checking where can we reduce the cost further,” Tesla’s chief financial officer, Vaibhav Taneja, told investors last month.

Tesla recorded deliveries of 485,000 over the final three months of last year, but fading demand, a series of price cuts, and costs linked to artificial intelligence projects, and the delayed Cybertruck took big chunks out of its bottom line.

Tesla’s profit margins, probably the metric most closely tracked by Wall Street analysts, narrowed to 17.6% in the fourth quarter of 2023. That compares with a 23.8% margin over the same period in 2022 and analysts’ estimates of around 18.3%.

And with Tesla warning that 2024 growth rates in vehicle deliveries would be “notably lower” than 2023 levels and Wall Street analysts trimming their revenue forecasts, job cuts are likely inevitable.

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Musk has also made no secret of his longer-term vision for Tesla and its ability to leverage AI technologies.

Musk, who currently owns around 13% of Tesla following a series of major share sales to fund his Twitter purchase in 2022, said last month that he would need to build his AI and robotics vision outside the Tesla structure unless he could acquire at least a 25% voting share.

Musk: AI is the future

“I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in AI & robotics without having ~25% voting control,” Musk wrote on the X social-media website, formerly Twitter, which he purchased for $44 billion in 2022.

“Enough to be influential, but not so much that I can’t be overturned. Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla.”

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas has argued that Tesla’s value is closely linked to the host businesses tied to the sales of its EVs.

Chief among those, Jonas said, is Tesla’s DoJo supercomputer, which is powered by AI technologies and could add more than $500 million to Tesla’s market value “through a faster adoption rate in Mobility (robotaxis) and Network Services (software as a service).”

GlobalData, an analytics firm based in London, said Tesla remains one of the top recruiters last year, with AI and cloud-themed hiring offsetting a decline in overall job postings.

Related: Analyst unveils new Tesla stock price target, focuses on crucial business

“We believe Tesla could be the biggest AI company in the world around [Full-Self-Driving], autonomous, Dojo, Optimus, robotaxis,” said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives in a recent report. The analyst detailed a series of recommendations to revive Tesla’s fate following last month’s disappointing earnings update.

“Tesla is going through ‘one of these moments,'” Ives added. “However, seeing the forest through the trees, this could be the start of the next AI-driven growth phase of the Tesla story.”

Tesla shares were marked 1.3% higher in early afternoon trading Wednesday to change hands at $187.28 each, a move that trims the stock’s six-month decline to around 25.5% and values the Austin carmaker at around $575 billion.

Related: Veteran fund manager picks favorite stocks for 2024

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By crystal
Crystal Jarry is an award-winning reporter and France, Dijon native covering entertainment and lifestyle for Vizionz Magazine.