When Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc. Report, speaks about the environment and the problems facing the automobile sector, industry actors listen.
For many years, the billionaire worked hard to convince his peers, authorities and consumers that electric vehicles were the future. The task was not easy because skeptics about the industry were double the number of believers.
His bet even seemed lost when from 2017 to 2019 Tesla found itself on the brink of bankruptcy because of difficulties managing its ramp-up of production capacity for the Model 3 sedan, its entry-level vehicle.
“Closest we got was about a month. The Model 3 ramp was extreme stress & pain for a long time — from mid 2017 to mid 2019. Production & logistics hell,” Musk said on Nov. 3, 2020.
The tech tycoon has twice recounted these difficulties this year, in March to defend competitor Rivian and in April during a Ted Talk.
“That was mega pain,” Musk said last March.
This difficult period in Tesla’s history is symbolized by the Joe Rogan podcast’s interview with Musk in September 2018. During this interview, Musk and his host smoked marijuana.
Today Tesla has become a juggernaut, the world’s sixth most valuable company with a market cap of $686.53 billion at last check.
The Austin auto group delivered nearly a million vehicles in 2021 and expects more than 1.5 million units in 2022 despite supply-chain disruptions, chip shortages and soaring raw-materials prices.
The billionaire says that to survive, upstarts must demonstrate that they can overcome the same difficulties as Tesla did.
Rivian (RIVN) – Get Rivian Automotive Inc. Report and Lucid (LCID) – Get Lucid Group Inc. Report, which are among the most promising competitors, are going through difficulties, and Musk has just opined on their future.
“The only American car companies that have not gone bankrupt are Tesla and Ford,” (F) – Get Ford Motor Company Report Musk said during an interview with the Tesla fan club Tesla Owners Silicon Valley. “And unless something changes significantly with Rivian and Lucid, they will both go bankrupt.
“I hope they are able to do something; but unless they cut their costs dramatically they’re in deep trouble.”
GM (GM) – Get General Motors Company Report and Chrysler, now part of Stellantis (FCAU) – Get Stellantis N.V. Report, filed under the bankruptcy laws in 2009.
Lucid and Rivian May Have a Chance
The billionaire then affirmed his remarks by tweeting on June 14 that:
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“If they [Rivian and Lucid] cut their opex & cogs dramatically, then they have a chance, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Musk posted. He referred to operating expenses and cost of goods sold, or the direct costs involved in manufacturing cars.
A spokesman for Rivian declined comment. TheStreet has contacted Lucid for comment as well.
Elon Musk’s warning comes as Lucid and Rivian are having trouble handling increased production rates. The two automakers also are hampered by the industrywide supply-chain problems, but some of their difficulties are also unique to them.
As TheStreet’s Rob Lenihan wrote on June 14, Rivian, which went public in November, is delaying delivery of its long-awaited SUV, the R1S, by one to nine months.
“We’ve continued to navigate a tight supply chain, we’ve had to reduce complexity wherever possible, including prioritizing certain build combinations over others,” the company said in a letter to customers posted on RivianForums.
Rivian was founded in 2009 and went public in 2021. The company produces three electric vehicles: the R1T pickup truck, the R1S SUV, and the RCV commercial van.
The company said during its first-quarter earnings that it had $17 billion in cash as of March 31. It added that will be enough to cover its spending through the launch of its next model, a lower-cost vehicle called R2, at a planned new factory in Georgia in 2025.
But the net loss was $1.6 billion in the first quarter. And Rivian expects to use $2.6 billion for capital expenditures in the second quarter ending this month.
As for Lucid, whose main shareholder is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund — which owns 62% — the company said last month that it had enough cash on hand to finance its operations until 2023.
“We continue to have a healthy balance sheet, closing the quarter with nearly $5.4 billion of cash on hand, which we believe is sufficient to fund the company well into 2023,” said Sherry House, Lucid’s chief financial officer, during the first-quarter earnings call.
Lucid in February was forced to lower its 2022 production target to between 12,000 and 14,000 vehicles from 20,000, mainly because of global supply chain and logistics challenges.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas is convinced that the group will have to find new injections of capital in 2023.
Jonas estimates $2 billion of new equity will be raised in fiscal 2023 and an additional $3 billion of capital (50/50 equity/debt) in 2024, as we wrote on May 7.
Lucid produces the Lucid Air Sedan which comes in several configurations, including the Lucid Air Dream Edition, Lucid Air Pure, Lucid Air Grand Touring.