Today was Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting. In past years the meeting has been held at the company’s factory in Fremont, California. This year it was held at the gigafactory in Austin, Texas. It turns out there was a reason for that. After the business portion of the meeting, Elon Musk got up and talked about all of the company’s good numbers. Car production is up, revenue is up, the Model 3 is a best-seller in its segment and they expect the Model Y to be the best selling car in the world soon. At the end of his talk, Musk paused and put up the logo above. It looks like belt buckle and says “Don’t mess with…” and in the center is Tesla’s ‘T’ logo.
“I’m excited to announce that we’re moving our headquarters to Austin, Texas,” Musk said. He got a sustained round of applause for that. “Just to be clear though, we’ll be continuing to expand our activities in California, so this is not a matter of Tesla, sort of, leaving California,” he said. He continued, “As I said, our intention is to actually increase output from Fremont and from GigaNevada by 50 percent.
“We’re just hitting the sides of the bowl. If you go to our Fremont factory it is jammed. I mean…it’s like whoa. When we first went in there it was like…we’re like a kid in his parent’s shoes. It was ridiculous, like tiny S in a giant factory and now we’re like ‘It’s spam in a can here.’ How do we fit more stuff?”
Musk did go on to say there were some other practical reasons to move the HQ to Austin that could be read as criticisms of California. “It’s tough for people to afford houses and a lot of people have to come in from far away and so, we’re taking it as far as possible but there’s a limit to how big you can scale in the bay area. Here in Austin our factory is like 5 minutes from the airport, 15 minutes from downtown.”
Musk did not bring up the spat he had with Alameda County last year about opening the Fremont factory. That led him to state he would move the company to Texas “immediately.”
Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2020
That same argument led to this exchange with a California assemblywoman:
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020
The assemblywoman had a lot of issues with Tesla including the fact that they are not a union shop.
California has highly subsidized a company that has always disregarded worker safety & well-being, has engaged in union busting & bullies public servants. I probably could’ve expressed my frustration in a less aggressive way. Of course, no one would’ve cared if I tweeted that.
— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) May 10, 2020
But at the time Gov. Newsom was a lot more complimentary of Musk and Tesla and a day later everyone was back to work. Alameda County issued a stern letter but within about 24 hours they had agreed the plant could remain open.
Musk himself moved to Texas last December saying he needed to spend more time at his Space X but he also had some criticism of the business climate in California, suggesting the state was taking success for granted.
“There used to be over a dozen car plants in California and California used to be the center of aerospace manufacturing. My companies are the last two left…That’s a very important point to make.”…
“California is great. There are a lot of things that are really great about California,” he said. But he added, “There is something that happens when…if a team has been winning for too long, they do tend to get a little complacent, a little entitled and then they don’t win the championship anymore.” “So California’s been winning for a long time and I think they’re taking it for granted a little bit,” he said.
So the headquarters is moving to Texas but the operation in California will continue for the foreseeable future. Still, you have to wonder if Musk might have stayed in California and tried to scale up there instead of in Texas if not for the hassle he ran into last year. How much did one assemblywoman’s shouting “F*ck Elon Musk” on Twitter cost her state? And would she even care if it were true? Some progressives are just anti-big business, no matter what that business is.
Here’s the full Tesla shareholder’s meeting. I have this queued up to Musk’s appearance which ends with his announcement about moving the headquarters.