Tesla shares soared in pre-market trading Thursday after the automaker said it delivered 90,650 vehicles in the second quarter, handily beating Wall Street expectations.
Analysts expected the electric car maker to delivery about 72,000 vehicles during the last three months, according to a consensus of analysts surveyed by FactSet. A broader set of analyst estimates, compiled by Bloomberg, set Wall Street expectations for Tesla higher at 83,000 vehicle deliveries in the second quarter.
Shares of Tesla closed Wednesday up 3.7% to $1,119.63. The company’s stock jumped by about 10% in pre-market trading.
The deliveries come a day after Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent out an e-mail congratulating his tens of thousands of employees on their “amazing” execution “in such difficult times.”
In the first quarter of 2020, Tesla said it made more vehicles than it sold– with 102,672 units produced, and 88,400 delivered. During the second quarter of 2019, Tesla said it made 87,048 vehicles including 72,531 Model 3s, and delivered 95,200, including 77,550 Model 3s.
Deliveries are the closest approximation of sales numbers reported by Tesla.
Auto sales the world over, and especially in the U.S., slumped during the quarter after Covid-19 outbreaks led to health restrictions on households, travel and businesses, mass layoffs and wage cuts.
During Q2, Tesla had to close its main U.S. car plant in Fremont, California for several weeks due to health orders. It slashed pay for salaried workers, and delayed giving raises, promotions and bonuses to employees until after a performance review that should be completed by the end of July.
Musk famously clashed with local health authorities over Covid-19 restrictions on the Fremont plant. He also downplayed the severity and prevalence of Covid-19 in the U.S., even though he delayed the company’s Battery Day and shareholder meeting until September, citing safety for crowds in the face of the novel coronavirus.
In the US, Tesla also faced two new federal safety probes, one over a problem with its vehicle displays, and another over a cooling system in its older Model S vehicles which may pose a fire risk.
In order to stoke demand for the company’s electric vehicles, Tesla cut vehicle prices during Q2 in North America and China both.
Its Shanghai car plant came back online quickly after a coronavirus-related shutdown, however. Sales in China began to recover with the company selling 11,095 made-in-Shanghai Model 3s there in May, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association.
On Wednesday, ahead of its deliveries report, Tesla’s valuation edged higher than Toyota’s. The American automaker’s sales are a small fraction of its Japanese predecessor, however. In 2019, Tesla reported deliveries of 367,500 vehicles globally, while Toyota reported sales that were twenty nine times higher at 10.74 million units.
Tesla was expected to meet or beat street expectations for Q2 deliveries, in no small part because Musk has been sending out “Everybody” e-mails to Tesla employees, which signal how the company is doing, and typically leak to press.
He sent one such e-mail on Wednesday around 11 a.m. California time to Tesla employees with the subject line “Congratulations Tesla Team!.” The e-mail said, in its entirety: “Just amazing how well you executed, especially in such difficult times. I am so proud to work with you!”
Tesla went public ten years ago todya, pricing shares at $17, higher than its expected range of $14 to $16.
The company raised around $226 million in its IPO, with shares surging that day by around 41% to close at $23.89. Today, shares in the electric vehicle maker closed at $1,009.35, meaning Tesla’s stock has risen by 4,125 % since the close of its first day as a public company.
That stock performance puts Tesla in rarified air, alongside Netflix, which was the top-performing stock on the S&P 500 during the 2010s. (Netflix rose 4,181% between Jan. 2010 and Dec. 2019. But Netflix shares more than doubled in price between Jan. 2010 and June 2010, when Tesla went public. That means Netflix has “only” gained 2,657% in value since Tesla’s debut.) It also means Tesla has outperformed other big tech names like Amazon and Apple, as well as all the major automakers.
The stock has had plenty of ups and downs along the way, including a 30% drop in the month after Aug. 7, 2018, when a CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he had “funding secured” to take the company private. The SEC accused Musk of misleading the public, as he allegedly knew the funding was contingent, and both Musk individually and Tesla as a company paid $20 million fines to settle the suit.
But shares have been on a rally since early 2020, as Tesla got its factory in Shanghai up and running and began manufacturing the Model Y at its original U.S. car plant in Fremont, California. Investors also bought into the company’s promises to deliver an electric semi truck called the Semi, electric pickup truck known as the Cybertruck and improvements in self-driving technology. Despite the Covid-19 epidemic, which shut down production in its California factory for several weeks, shares are up more than 140% this year.
Since going public, Tesla has never achieved a full year of profitability. The company has reported seven quarters with net income greater than zero, since its IPO — the first was Q1 of 2013. It has now reported three consecutive quarters of GAAP profit, with some accounting adjustments along the way, and is scheduled to report Q2 earnings next month.
Tesla is now gunning for inclusion in the S&P 500, which requires a minimum of four consecutive quarters of profitability, among other things.
This photo of a production version of Tesla’s Model Y was included in the company’s Q4 2019 earnings report.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent one of his characteristic motivational emails to all employees at his electric vehicle company on Monday around noon California time.
In the email, which was shared with CNBC, he urged workers to “go all out” with vehicle production and deliveries, and told them that “breaking even is looking super tight.”
It’s not clear whether “breaking even” was referring to the company’s profit margin, which may require it to sell a certain number of vehicles during the quarter, or another metric, like production numbers versus expectations or previous quarters’ figures.
Tesla is expected to report its second quarter vehicle production and deliveries numbers this week, before the 4th of July weekend.
In its first quarter earnings update this year, Tesla walked back prior guidance saying that it has “capacity installed” to hit 500,000 vehicle deliveries in 2020, but remains uncertain how quickly its U.S. car plant, and suppliers, can ramp up production following Covid-19 restrictions.
At that time, Tesla also said its near-term profit guidance was “on hold,” dampening hopes it may achieve its first full year of profitability.
The company is gunning for inclusion on the S&P 500, which requires a minimum of four consecutive quarters of profitability. Tesla has reported profits in its last three quarters.
Earlier this quarter, Tesla’s main manufacturing facility in Fremont, California, was shut down for more than a month as officials ordered non-essential businesses to shut down to slow the spread of Covid-19. Tesla and Musk clashed with officials over the restrictions and resumed vehicle production shifts the second week of May, days before the county would green light the company’s “site-specific plan” to allow employees back at work.
The company is producing its latest Model Y crossover SUVs in a massive tent, where it previously made a portion of its Model 3 electric sedans. In the tent, known as GA4 (or General Assembly 4) workers make cars with more manual processes, rather than the sophisticated robotics and extensive automation they use in an indoor part of the plant.
In the first quarter of the year, Tesla said it delivered around 88,400 vehicles including combined deliveries of 76,200 Model 3 sedans and Model Y crossover SUVs, and combined deliveries of 12,200 of the older and more expensive Model S and X vehicles. It produced about 14,000 more cars than it delivered in the first quarter — making a total of 102,672 vehicles.
Here’s the email in its entirety, transcribed by CNBC.
Subject: Down to the last few days
From: Elon Musk
Date: June 29, 2020
Breaking even is looking super tight. Really makes a difference for every car you build and deliver. Please go all out to ensure victory!
Amazon will have to invest many billions more than it’s spending on Zoox to bring self-driving tech to market
Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Amazon is shelling out more than $1 billion on self-driving car company Zoox, one of its most expensive acquisitions ever. But CEO Jeff Bezos is going to have to invest many multiples of that to bring the nascent technology to market.
The deal, which was announced on Friday and had been in the works for months prior, pits Amazon squarely against Alphabet spinout Waymo, GM’s Cruise, Uber, Tesla and even Apple, which is doing its best to keep its self-driving project secretive. Waymo raised $2.25 billion in outside funding in March, its first external financing, in preparation for the long haul.
Autonomous driving is a pure bet on the future, requiring a ton of capital to manufacture and test systems and lobby policymakers, with no certainty about when or if the market will tip in its favor. For six-year-old Zoox, which had been valued by private investors at $3.2 billion in 2018, selling to Amazon at a discount became its best bet as the coronavirus pandemic made it particularly hard to raise capital for any company that lacks a working business model.
From here, Amazon will likely have to spend $2 billion a year in ongoing development to get Zoox technology into the market, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the projections are confidential. Katrin Zimmermann, managing director at TLGG Consulting, agrees with that estimate and added that $33 billion was invested into the autonomous car market last year. She predicts Amazon will likely have to invest 10 times the purchase price before Zoox is ready to roll.
While it could be a decade or more until we have fully functional and commercialized autonomous cars roaming U.S. streets, Zimmerman said that Amazon can use pieces of the technology for its last-mile delivery operations, which are core to its broader business.
“Amazon is all about fast, efficient effective delivery solutions, and they have been looking into all the components that will allow for them to do that,” Zimmerman said. “We might see it earlier than in mass market commercialization opportunities.”
Forecasts for the self-driving car market have been all over the map. In a 2017 report, McKinsey predicted that self-driving cars were five to 10 years away, though advanced driver assist technologies, like emergency breaking and self-parking systems already represented a $15 billion market. Morgan Stanley acknowledged last year, in cutting its valuation on Waymo, that it “underestimated how long safety drivers are likely to be present within cars and the timing of the rollout of autonomous rides-sharing services.”
Tesla’s Elon Musk has said that robotaxis will be on the road by the end of this year, but he’s notoriously aggressive and often incorrect with his predictions. And BMW and Daimler formed a joint agreement last year, targeting a market launch for autonomous vehicles by 2024.
Not many companies have the size and capital structure to adequately compete in the long term, particularly with the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. Multiple car manufacturers were involved in the bidding process for Zoox, but backed out as Covid-19 became a pressing concern, said people familiar with the matter.
A Zoox representative said the company wasn’t offering interviews and Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Amazon said in a blog post that completion of the deal is “subject to customary closing conditions.” Zoox CEO Aicha Evans, who will stay on after the acquisition, said in the post that, “We now have an even greater opportunity to realize a fully autonomous future.” Amazon’s Jeff Wilke, CEO of the consumer business, said “we’re excited to help the talented Zoox team to bring their vision to reality in the years ahead.”
Amazon had been toying around the edges of the autonomous car market, leading a $700 million investment in electric vehicle start-up Rivian in 2019 and also backing Aurora, co-founded and led by Chris Urmson, the former technology chief of self-driving cars at Alphabet. Buying Zoox is by far its biggest jump into the market, especially considering the business isn’t close to generating revenue.
It’s a stark contrast to Amazon’s previous billion dollar-plus purchases. When Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in 2017, it acquired one of the leading super market chains and a company with a fatter operating margin than its core business. After that, Amazon’s largest deals include the purchase of smart doorbell maker Ring last year, online pharmacy PillPack in 2018, game streaming site Twitch in 2014 and internet shoe seller Zappos in 2009. Each deal was close to $1 billion and brought with it a solid business.
Zoox will be a new experiment for Bezos. David Somo, senior vice president at ON Semiconductor, said in an email that the acquisition is likely more focused on bolstering distribution, as opposed to developing a fleet of autonomous passenger cars to compete with Uber and Lyft.
“This fits well into Amazon’s model for automating its distribution network spanning from warehouse robotics, to last mile delivery services,” Somo wrote. He added that the acquisition should “drive operational efficiencies, scale and eventually result in substantial cost savings across their distribution network.”
A Terran 1 rocket lifts off from Relativity’s launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in this artist rendition.
Relativity Space, a growing startup that aims to almost entirely 3D-print rockets, on Wednesday announced it struck another major launch deal, as well as an agreement with the U.S. Air Force, to build a launchpad on the California coastline.
The Los Angeles-based rocket builder signed an agreement with satellite operator Iridium Communications, to launch up to six satellites as needed as early as 2023. Over the course of more than half a dozen launches with SpaceX, Iridium completed its second-generation satellite constellation in January 2019, with 66 operational satellites and 9 spares in orbit.
The Iridium deal means Relativity now has agreements to launch for five different companies, having previously announced contracts with Canadian satellite communications operator Telesat, California-based Momentus, Thai satellite broadband company mu Space and Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. All the contracts have remarkably come before Relativity’s first launch, which is scheduled to happen before the end of 2021.
“People are really excited to see where the 3D-printing technology goes,” Relativity CEO Tim Ellis told CNBC. “We’re going to be able to serve customers in a way that just wasn’t possible before.”
Relativity has continued to grow and make progress despite the coronavirus pandemic. Ellis said the company now has about 170 total employees on staff, with hiring continuing during the crisis thanks to the $140 million it raised in October. Relativity’s investors include Social Capital, Playground Global, Y Combinator, Bond Capital, Tribe Capital, Jared Leto and Mark Cuban.
A timelapse of Relativity’s Stargate 3D printer building a rocket fuel tank.
Relativity Space | gif by @thesheetztweetz
For Iridium, the deal represents a cost-saving option for whenever it may need to replenish its satellite constellation. Ellis explained that Relativity would “launch each one at a time” on its Terran 1 rocket. Still in development, about 95% of the parts for Terran 1 are being 3D printed. Relativity says it boasts 100 times less parts than traditional rockets and therefore a simpler supply chain that can turn raw material into a rocket on the launchpad in under 60 days.
“Relativity’s Terran 1 fits our launch needs to [low Earth orbit] well from both a price, responsiveness and capability perspective,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch said in a statement. “The upgraded Iridium satellite constellation is operating incredibly well, but it’s prudent to have a cost-effective launch option available for future spare delivery.”
A California launchpad
Relativity also announced that it has an agreement with the military for a launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The company plans to build a new launch facility called B-330 at a site to the south of the existing launchpad SLC-6 on base. Relativity will fund the site’s construction, with Ellis saying he expects it will cost upwards of $10 million to build.
Vandenberg Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6) on the coast of California.
Iridium acts as the “anchor customer” for Relativity to build the launchpad, as Vandenberg’s location allows access to the orbits in which the satellite company operates. But Ellis said that Relativity has gotten interest from even more customers to launch from the West Coast.
“Vandenberg is going to be used quite extensively,” Ellis said.
Ellis added that launching from Vandenberg “has been in the works for some time” — and the Air Force, for its part, welcomed Relativity.
“We are impressed by Relativity’s innovative approach to reinventing aerospace manufacturing via 3D metal printing and robotics paired with an executive team of seasoned aerospace leaders. We look forward to working with Relativity as its West Coast launch partner for many years to come,” 30th Space Wing commander Colonel Anthony J. Mastalir said in a statement.
An artist’s rendition of Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral’s LC-16 in Florida.
The company still plans to launch its first missions from Cape Canaveral in Florida, so adding Vandenberg to its portfolio allows “access to all major orbits that almost any customer wants to launch to,” Ellis said. Relativity has already broken ground on LC-16 in Florida and is currently doing demolition and construction to get the launchpad ready.
Getting ready for first launch
Relativity continues to build up its Long Beach factory, which Ellis said should be done by the end of the year. That will include two new 3D-printers, needed to build the largest parts of Terran 1. Before the year is out, Ellis said Relativity would be producing full rocket stages and begin testing on second stage structures — the physical top third or so of the rocket. In a few months, Relativity also plans to start “full integrated engine tests” of its most powerful rocket engine, Ellis said.
The company continues to hire, with Ellis saying Relativity’s brought on new employees even since the pandemic began. That includes hiring Relativity’s first CFO: Muhammad Shahzad, a former Goldman Sachs VP and most recently the CFO of The Honest Company, a Los Angeles-based consumer goods specialist. Relativity also snagged Zach Dunn as the company’s senior vice president of factory development — Dunn spent nearly 13 years at SpaceX, rising to SVP of launch and production for Elon Musk’s rocket company.
“We have an insanely experienced team,” Ellis said. “I think this technology is going to be among the most disruptive in our lifetime in this industry and then aerospace more broadly, besides reusable rockets. No one has fundamentally changed manufacturing for 60 years.”
Relativity co-founders Tim Ellis (left) and Jordan Noone stand next to a 3D printed second stage of the company’s Terran 1 rocket.
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Nora Tam | South China Morning Post | Getty Images
“Tentative date for Tesla Shareholder Meeting & Battery Day is Sept 15. Will include tour of cell production system,” Musk said in his tweet late Sunday.
The message came two days after he said the electric car maker would have to postpone its annual shareholder meeting due to the coronavirus outbreak. The event had been scheduled for July 7.
Tesla is facing pressure from proxy advisors Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services, who are urging shareholders to vote to oppose the reelection of Robyn Denholm as board chair.
The proxy advisors have expressed concerns over Tesla’s high compensation for directors, and a steep rise in the number of shares pledged by Tesla directors and executives, including Musk, since Denholm was appointed chair in November 2018.
Denholm replaced Musk as chairman after he was forced to give up the role as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over his now infamous tweets saying he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 per share.
Regarding the Battery Day, Musk has been promising to reveal significant advances in the company’s battery technology for months.
Reuters reported in May that the company plans to introduce a new low-cost, long-life battery in its Model 3 sedan in China later this year or early next and expects it will bring the cost of electric vehicles in line with gasoline models.
— CNBC’s Lora Kolodny contributed to this report.
Tesla employees learned on Thursday that the company has scheduled a new round of performance reviews to be completed by July 27, and plans to delay paying out merit awards previously promised to employees until after that cycle.
The composition of merit awards at Tesla has varied over time, but can include raises, stock options, title changes, and incentive payments for meeting certain goals like producing a high number of vehicles in a single quarter.
In the June 17 e-mail, which Tesla employees shared with CNBC, the head of HR at the company, Valerie Capers Workman, cited unspecified Covid-19 impacts as a justification for holding off on awards and promotions:
“Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the business, and virtually every business in the world, any merit notifications you may have received in prior months will not be awarded since we are replacing the prior merit cycle with the one starting in July. Along with broader efforts to manage costs, the decision to hold these awards was important to help ensure that Tesla would thrive in the aftermath of this pandemic.”
She added that the plan has the support of CEO Elon Musk and the rest of the leadership team.
In a separate e-mail, Tesla’s acting HR director, Vince Woodard, told “set rate” production employees that if they were granted awards between January and June 2020, those awards will be paid out after the July review.
Covid-19 impacted Tesla’s operations and consumer confidence significantly in the first and second quarters of 2020. For example, Tesla begrudgingly suspended vehicle manufacturing in Fremont, California, between late March and early May. Earlier, it had to suspend operations at its new vehicle assembly plant in Shanghai. In April, Tesla saw a sales slump in China, and in May it reportedly saw vehicle registrations in California decline steeply versus the prior year.
Performance reviews generally create tension among Tesla employees. The company has sometimes made steep cuts to headcount during or shortly after review periods.
In the second half of 2019, before the emergence of Covid-19, Tesla slashed commissions and added responsibilities for sales employees, and had already delayed end-of-year performance reviews and awards for all, as CNBC previously reported.
Tesla did not immediately return a request for comment.
Here’s the email announcing the new performance review process:
From: Valerie Workman
Subj. Introducing Performance Acceleration 2020!
Date: June 17, 2020 [Ed. Time stamp redacted]
I’m excited to share that from July 1 through July 27 we will be conducting our new performance review session, “Performance Acceleration 2020.” We continue to set excellence as the passing grade and aim to build a winning all-star team. It has been an inspiration to watch so many of you during this unusual and challenging time.
Performance Acceleration 2020 is how we as an organization will evaluate performance, offer feedback, set clear goals and expectations, celebrate strengths and provide support/coaching where needed. It is also the primary way we will determine promotions, merit increases, equity awards and other recognition as well as assess our organization and what is needed to continue to succeed.
Performance Acceleration 2020 is for all employees company-wide and will be a bi-annual process (occurring every July and January) moving forward (in some cases quarterly reviews will continued based on business practices.) Conducting reviews on a regular cadence allows for regular and predictable performance feedback, increased opportunities for career growth and development, more time to assess achievements and overall more fairness in evaluations.
Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the business, and virtually every business in the world, any merit notifications you may have received in prior months will not be awarded since we are replacing the prior merit cycle with the one starting in July. Along with broader efforts to manage costs, the decision to hold these awards was important to help ensure that Tesla would thrive in the aftermath of this pandemic. However, please know that data related to previous Performance Reviews, awards, equity, promotions and level ups will be available for informational purposes to all managers to review and take into account as part of this review session.
Please know that this program has the support of Elon, myself and the entire leadership team. You’ll be hearing more about this from your leaders and HR Partners next week and will have a chance to ask questions and get familiarized with the new way to review how scrappy gets done!
Thank you for all you do to ensure the success of our company!
A Tesla Model S is displayed during the London Motor and Tech Show at ExCel on May 16, 2019 in London, England.
John Keeble | Getty Images
Tesla confirmed Monday night that it recently cut the price of the 2020 Model S Long Range Plus by $5,000 and boasted that the EPA-rated range for this version of the Model S — meaning the number of miles the vehicle can travel per single charge in testing conditions — has increased to 402 miles.
The claim about the 402-mile range remains unconfirmed by government offices. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency could not immediately substantiate Tesla’s statement after hours. A Department of Energy website, fueleconomy.gov, on Monday did not list the rating for the 2020 Model S Long Range Plus.
In the company’s post on Monday, Tesla focused not on sales and pricing trends, but on the ways in which it has improved the range of the Model S Long Range Plus as compared to earlier versions of the company’s flagship electric sedan.
Among other things, Tesla said it achieved range improvements by reducing the mass of the vehicle by using lighter weight materials in its battery pack and drive units, and other lighter weight components. It also introduced a feature called “hill hold” or “HOLD” which allows drivers to remain stopped on a hill without having to keep the brake pedal pressed down. The “hold” feature maximizes regenerative braking in the Model S and other Tesla vehicles that have it.
On Tesla’s first-quarter earnings call on April 29, CEO Elon Musk said that the EPA had mishandled prior assessments of Tesla electric vehicles, and that the Model S range was already over 400 miles.
“The real Model S range is 400 miles, but when we did the last EPA test, unfortunately, a TA left the car door open and the keys in the car. So the car — and they did this overnight. And so, the car actually went into a waiting for driver mode and lost 2% of its range. And as a result, it had a 391 test. As soon as the EPA reopens for testing, we will redo the test, and we’re actually confident that we will achieve a 400-mile or greater range with the Model S. But to be clear, the Model S, for the past two months — the true range of the Model S for the past two months has been 400 miles.”
The EPA disputed Musk’s story, as The Verge later reported. “We can confirm that EPA tested the vehicle properly, the door was closed, and we are happy to discuss any technical issues with Tesla, as we do routinely with all automakers,” a spokesperson told the publication in May.
An EPA-rated range does not reflect the range an electric vehicle may be able to travel in real world driving scenarios or on the track.
For example, the 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S scored a 192-mile rating from the EPA, and the 2020 Tesla Model S Performance scored a 348-mile EPA rating. But when Car & Driver tested the vehicles on the same track, in California, on the same night, the cars were much closer together — the Taycan scored a 209-mile range and the Model S scored a 222-mile range.
The Model S has not been a top seller for Tesla in the last few quarters as the company turned its focus to Model 3 sales in the US, and the start of Model 3 production and deliveries in China.
In the first quarter of 2020, before the harshest health and economic impacts of Covid-19 were felt in the U.S., Tesla reported Model S and Model X vehicles deliveries of 12,200 total. The company produced 15,390 Model S and X vehicles in Q1 2020, or 25% more than it was able to deliver in that quarter. In the preceding fourth quarter of 2019, Tesla delivered 19,450 Model S and X vehicles.
It’s not clear whether discounting the Model S Long Range Plus domestically will help Tesla reach its delivery goals for the second quarter, a number analysts expect to hear before the July 4 holiday in the U.S.
Discounting some of its made-in-Shanghai Model 3 vehicles recently helped Tesla resuscitate sales in China, following a Covid-19 related slump in April there.
Tesla safety boss tries to calm factory workers, some are concerned about lax coronavirus precautions
Tesla’s safety leader Laurie Shelby sent an e-mail to employees who work at its Fremont, California, vehicle assembly plant on Thursday to assuage their concerns about new infections among employees. However, some employees say that despite Shelby’s email, they remain worried about infections and lax safety precautions in Fremont.
In the internal communication, which was previously reported by The San Francisco Chronicle, Shelby wrote:
“Since we restarted operations, we have had zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions. COVID-19 exposure has occurred outside the workplace primarily through family members or housemates, and in most instances, the employee followed safety protocol, informed their manager and stayed home or went to get tested.”
The email did not explain how Tesla arrived at these conclusions, or who may have conducted testing and contact tracing to determine when and where Tesla employees were infected. Tesla and Shelby did not immediately return requests for comment.
Shelby’s email comes days after the Washington Post reported that employees at the company’s seat manufacturing facility, a couple of miles away from the main car factory, had tested positive for the virus, citing anonymous sources. The report did not specify where or how these workers contracted the coronavirus.
However, some employees say that they’re concerned given current conditions in the plant.
Three production employees there told CNBC on Thursday and Friday that it’s impossible to do their work building cars while complying with the safety rules that the Alameda County Public Health Department said Tesla must implement in order to remain open. These people asked to remain unnamed because they are not authorized to discuss workplace conditions.
Specifically, these employees said, they cannot wear a face covering during their entire shift, thoroughly clean shared tools and equipment between shifts, and keep social distance between coworkers during work, or even during breaks.
Shifts were previously on a staggered schedule to help employees avoid crowding while entering and exiting the facility, but they are not staggered any more, these employees noted. Workers’ temperatures used to be taken personally as they entered the facility, but thermal cameras now scan them as they enter.
Assembling cars at Tesla requires working physically close together, often in enclosed spaces, to complete a task over and over again in less than a minute or two. The work is sweat-inducing.
One person said most employees working on the indoor general assembly line, known as GA3, do not cover their mouths and noses throughout their shifts. It’s too hard to breathe with a mask on, they said, even though the company makes plenty of the surgical masks available.
Because it’s a fireable offense to work without a face covering, many keep their surgical masks hanging under their chins and pull them up if a supervisor walks by, employees said, but even supervisors have been lax about the rules in some cases.
Employees noted that many colleagues have been coughing, sneezing and wheezing.
A spokesperson for the Fremont Police told CNBC they have not inspected the factory facilities since May 13.
The Alameda County Public Health Department has declined to provide site-specific, anonymized data that would reveal whether Tesla managed to keep infections at bay, or if there had been an outbreak at the Fremont factory since it reopened in defiance of local health orders, with full shifts producing cars the weekend of May 9th.
“We are not disclosing information about number of cases at specific employer settings,” a spokesperson for the Health Deapartment said. “This would be protected health information under HIPAA and we would not disclose it for any of the cases we know about, regardless of their employer.”
By contrast, site-specific, anonymized data about senior living businesses, prisons, and meat processing plants have been available across the US.
The stakes are high for the county and Tesla both.
Any outbreak of Covid-19 at Tesla could force Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker to once again suspend operations, or cancel shifts early for deep cleaning at least in Fremont. He has already sued, and withdrawn a suit, against the county for Covid-19 restrictions.
Infections that prove harmful or fatal to employees could also leave Tesla subject to OSHA or police inspections and fines, or leave Tesla and the county facing lawsuits.
Tesla shares closed down 3.86% on Friday after analysts at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock.
Here is what Laurie Shelby, vice president of environment, health and safety wrote to Tesla Fremont employees on June 11th (e-mail transcribed by CNBC):
Since we restarted operations, we have had zero COVID-19 workplace transmissions. COVID-19 exposure has occurred outside the workplace primarily through family members or housemates, and in most instances, the employee followed safety protocol, informed their manager and stayed home or went to get tested.
If there is any potential or confirmed COVID case at Tesla, regardless of where transmission took place, our protocol is to interview the individual, investigate their whereabouts and speak with their managers to determine who had contact with the individual at work. We speak with all individuals who had direct and extended contact, and quarantine those individuals to watch for symptoms.
We have also implemented additional cleaning measures in our facilities as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health organizations.
To minimize exposure, please stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands, wear your PPE properly and maintain distance from others where possible. Continue to do your daily health check, and reach out to me or the EHS team at [Ed. E-mail redacted] if you have any questions or would like additional information or training. Tesla also has COVID-paid sick leave so you don’t have to choose between your health and finances. Contact your HR partner to learn more.
We want to hear from you so we can continue to use your feedback to improve processes and ensure effectiveness. Please use this survey or the survey QR code in newsletters and on the TV screens.
A SkySat 50 centimeter resolution image of the Mundra Power Plant in Gujarat, India on April 4, 2020.
Satellite imagery specialist Planet unveiled on Tuesday how the completion of its SkySat fleet will allow customers to more quickly access detailed imagery of anywhere in the world.
The VC-backed space company is set to complete its SkySat constellation of satellites in the next two months with a pair of SpaceX launches, sending the last six satellites for the fleet into orbit and bringing total in space to 21. Planet acquired the high-resolution SkySat satellites from Alphabet’s Google in 2017, with the constellation representing an upgrade from Planet’s existing fleet of medium-resolution Dove satellites.
In addition to completing the fleet, Planet announced it lowered the altitude of the SkySat fleet to improve the resolution to 50 centimeters. Once all the satellites are in orbit, the SkySat constellation will be able to image anywhere in the world seven times a day ― and some locations up to 12 times per day.
“We’re excited to see what happens in that 12 revisits a day category,” Planet’s VP of imagery products Jim Thomason told CNBC.
Planet currently has about 30,000 users of its imagery, which stems from around 500 customers in more than 40 countries. While the company has traditionally served imagery customers in the U.S. government and intelligence branches, commercial sectors such as agriculture, forestry, energy and infrastructure are growing. The improved resolution of Planet’s imagery to 50 centimeters will allow for its customers to make more key distinctions when using the images, the company said. For example, Thomason said that at 50 centimeters it becomes possible to distinguish between semi-trucks and buses or between cars and pickup trucks.
“It becomes easier to do estimations of material coming out of a mine or of equipment staging within mining operations,” Thomason said.
The company also unveiled an automated “tasking dashboard” for customers to request satellite imagery. Thomason emphasized that Planet expects the dashboard will be especially helpful for its commercial customers, saying that “satellite imagery has historically been a difficult product … because the tools have been relatively bespoke” and not intuitive.
“A big blocker for customers to get access to satellite imagery is just the process of tasking an image of, telling a satellite image provider where to point and shoot,” Thomason said.
The Planet dashboard for users to task satellites.
Planet’s dashboard “is a lot like putting in your address of where you want to collect an image,” Thomason said.
Customers will be able to track the progress of an order through the dashboard and Planet expects to be able to process high priority orders within the same day. Thomason added that the improved access to satellite imagery for its customers, paired with the number of daily revisits and higher resolution, “has really opened up the commercial market” for Planet.
“It’s a great growth opportunity,” Thomason said. “It’s become easier for our customers to use, which means we get more customers and that means there’s more demand, which means we have good reason to launch more satellites.”
Behind SpaceX, Planet has raised the second-most private equity of any company in the space sector, bringing in a total of over $400 million.
Hitching a ride with SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites
The last six SkySat satellites will also be the first of another company to hitch a ride on a SpaceX Starlink launch. Elon Musk’s rocket company last year unveiled its “smallsat rideshare program,” in which small satellites can launch as secondary payloads when SpaceX launches its rockets. That includes when SpaceX flies its own Starlink internet satellites, which the company launches about once a month.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying 60 Starlink satellites on November 11, 2019 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Starlink constellation will eventually consist of thousands of satellites designed to provide world wide high-speed internet service.
Paul Hennessy | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Three SkySats will launch on the next SpaceX Starlink launch, expected in the next week or so, with another satellite imagery company BlackSky launching two satellites on the following Starlink mission that’s expected to launch June 24. Then Planet will launch the other three SkySats on another Starlink mission in July.
“Because they’re launching Starlink so often there was a lot of flexibility with finding a time to launch that works for us,” Planet’s VP of launch Mike Safyan told CNBC.
Each SkySat satellite is “roughly the size of a washing machine,” Safyan explained, with a mass of about 110 kilograms. SpaceX advertises rideshare mission at a price as low as $1 million per 200 kilograms.
Planet engineers in a cleanroom with a SkySat satellite.
SpaceX has launched eight Starlink missions so far, with each carrying 60 Starlink satellites. It’s unclear whether adding Planet’s three satellites will require SpaceX reduce how many Starlink satellites it launches at once, but Safyan said that his company built a “a custom adapter plate that allows us to fit on top of the Starlink stack” inside the rocket’s nosecone.
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