epart of the secret of success of the car manufacturer Tesla is its close partnership with the Japanese battery manufacturer Panasonic. The Japanese operate together with Tesla in the "Gigafactory" the largest production line for lithium-ion battery cells in the world. Panasonic announced in March that after investing $ 4.5 billion at the Gigafactory, it had reached the targeted production capacity of cells with a total storage volume of 35 gigawatt hours per year.
But now there is a serious conflict between the partners, which could reveal a fundamental weakness Tesla. Last week, Japan's most important business paper, "Nikkei," announced that Panasonic had put another billion-dollar investment in Tesla's gigafactory plant on hold. The reason is lack of demand from Tesla, quoted the well-networked in Japanese companies newspaper anonymous Panasonic managers.
Apparently, "Nikkei" continues, Tesla's Model 3 production would lag behind the expected need for cells. Commenting on the report, Panasonic said that they had not yet completely buried the investment plans but would for the time being observe the "demand" in the electric car market. Tesla contradicted his main supplier in a separate statement, commenting that they plan to invest more in the factory together.
Musk's dangerous opponents on the stock market
For Tesla's CEO Elon Musk, this decision by his Japanese partners is a cross shot at the worst possible time. Already the past quarter fell far short of the expectations of the analysts, Tesla sold significantly less Model 3 than expected. Also, the demand for Model S and X remained lower than hoped. Among other things, Tesla justified this by having production problems at home and start-up problems in new markets outside the US.
Now, if Panasonic contradicts this rationale and indicates lack of demand as the reason for the investment stop, the Japanese question Elon Musk's complete promise of growth towards its investors of a production capacity of 500,000 Model 3 per year. The CEO reacted accordingly on Saturday evening on Twitter.
The story of lack of demand for the Model 3 was "incorrect", in reality, Panasonic's production line in the Gigafactory since July 2018, the limiting factor in the Model 3 production.
Panasonic produces instead of the promised 35 gigawatt hours only cells with a total of 24 gigawatt hours per year. It was therefore physically impossible to produce more Model 3 in the first quarter. Tesla is now looking for other battery suppliers, claims Musk. Publicly, the dispute between the former dream partners could hardly be conducted – and the stock market responded promptly: Panasonic's shares rose significantly by just under three percent, Tesla lost in value to the same extent.
Musk reacts so furiously, too, because Panasonic's decision against further investments in the Nevada desert is not the first indication that Tesla is currently selling significantly less Model 3 than Musk had once promised. Musk's currently most dangerous opponents are members of a group of investors who have sold Tesla's shares "short" – so they bet on a price slump at the car maker.
Tesla lowers prices for all models
They have been sensing for some months that something in Musk's group could go awry, eagerly collecting evidence via Twitter that Tesla sells far fewer cars than it produces. They search and find drone or plane huge parking lots in California and Nevada full of brand new unsold Model 3, secretly photograph the parking garages of abandoned shopping malls full of unsold Model 3 with production stickers from the year 2018, take photo by photo.
In the meantime 52 parking places are listed everywhere in the USA on their newly created website, where according to the hobby detection brand new Tesla dust starts.
In comparison with registration statistics, they are trying to prove that Tesla, contrary to its own information, is already building significantly more cars in the quarterly report than is demanded. Demand, therefore, is lagging far behind expectations, especially where countries are reducing their electric vehicle subsidies.
It goes without saying that only a few weeks ago Tesla lowered the prices of all models – an illogical decision if demand actually exceeded supply.
Musk wants to show working autopilot
Panasonics decision to stop investment is water on the mills short shoppers, as now for the first time an important insider seems to confirm their theses. Musk, meanwhile, tries to boost demand again: Tesla announced this week to offer vehicles in a leasing model for the first time.
According to Musk, leasing returns will then become part of a fleet of autonomous cars and earn money in the so-called "Tesla Network" with ride-sharing services.
But for this Tesla would first have to imagine a functioning autopilot, which actually makes the vehicles autonomous. Also on this Musk published on Saturday via Twitter one answer: On April 22, he wants to show investors that they no longer have to drive their cars themselves.
His critics on Twitter responded just as quickly: So far, the model 3 missing the necessary for complete autonomy sensor hardware, especially a laser for distance measurements is not on board. Whether Musk wanted to retrofit it – he was silent about that.