Elon Musk said on Tuesday that Tesla would launch advertisements for its electric vehicles, a first for the company founded two decades ago.
“We’ll try a little advertising and see how it goes,” Musk said in response to a question from a shareholder at Tesla’s investor day, drawing applause from the audience.
The automotive industry is among the biggest spenders on ads, but Tesla has largely eschewed conventional advertising and instead has relied on word of mouth and incentivised referrals.
Tesla fans and shareholders expressed some frustration that the wider public was often unaware of the carmaker’s features, as Tesla increases production for a mainstream audience.
In a follow-up interview on Twitter Spaces with CNBC’s David Faber, he added that Tesla would be interested in running ads that were informative, aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.
Asked for more details, he said: “I just agreed to it; I don’t have a fully formed strategy.”
Musk answered questions for more than an hour during the two events, in which he hyped up Tesla’s driverless technologies, argued that working from home is “morally wrong”, and said China needs to be taken at its word that it sees Taiwan as integral to the country.
Musk, who has promised for years that Tesla’s “full self-driving” efforts would soon allow Tesla owners to lease out their vehicles in a robotaxi fleet, earning them money, once again said the tech should be available this year.
He said Tesla will soon have “a ChatGPT moment” — a reference to the OpenAI tool that became widely adopted within days of launch last autumn. “Suddenly 3mn cars will drive themselves. And then 5mn cars, and then 10mn cars.”
Meanwhile, Musk conceded that advertising on Twitter — the social media company he acquired last year — is experiencing trouble. He said in the interview that Twitter had recently lost $40mn after “two pretty big advertisers” were upset when their ads were fact-checked and labelled misleading by Community Notes — a crowdsourcing feature to fact-check tweets, including ads.
He recently hired Linda Yaccarino, the former head of advertising at NBCUniversal, to replace him as Twitter’s chief executive, while he focuses on the more technical aspects of the platform. He has also continued his prolific tweeting habit since taking over the company, and gave no indication he was prepared to stop.
“I’ll say what I want, and if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it,” he told CNBC’s Faber.
The South African entrepreneur has long said he was against employees working from home — he has even banned remote work at Twitter since taking over. On Tuesday he called it “a bit like that fake Marie Antoinette quote, ‘let them eat cake’,” as white-collar workers could stay at home while expecting others to deliver their food and make their goods.
When Musk was asked about geopolitical tensions involving China and the US over Taiwan, he said, “there’s a certain inevitability to the situation”, as “the official policy of China is that Taiwan should be integrated”.
Musk agreed that China taking Taiwan would not be good for Tesla, “or any company in the world”, but he also suggested that decoupling from China was not a realistic policy option. The company has a plant in Shanghai that can produce 22,000 vehicles a week, about four times the capacity of Tesla’s Texas plant.
“The Chinese economy and the rest of the global economy are like conjoined twins — that’s the severity of the situation. And it’s actually worse for other companies than it is for Tesla. I mean, I’m not sure where you’re going to get an iPhone, for example.”