Tesla Chairman and CEO Elon Musk revealed during a first-quarter earnings call that the company’s first step into the Class 8 market, the electric Semi, will once again be delayed, this time into 2021.
Initially, when the electric truck was dramatically introduced to the industry in 2017, Musk announced production for the Semi would begin in 2019. Companies such as Anheuser-Busch, J.B. Hunt, and Fedex put in orders, which required a $5,000 deposit per truck. A month after the unveiling, UPS preordered 125 of the electric trucks, with the required deposit jumping to $20,000 per truck.
Over the next year, Tesla Semis were spotted along highways and details started to emerge on an electric truck charging network. Then, in April 2019, during Tesla’s first-quarter earnings call, Jerome Guillen, president of automotive and head of the Tesla Semi program, indicated that production would begin in 2020. This was pushed back further in January, when a leaked email sent by Tesla to a company that had reserved one of the Semis reportedly said production would begin in the second half of 2020, with a limited run.
Musk and COVID-19
Tesla did not elaborate on the reason for the delay, but it's quite possible that it's related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the Q&A portion of this week's call, Musk made headlines when he went off script when asked about the COVID-19 outbreak and the shelter in place ordered by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, calling it “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes” and “against all their constitutional rights.”
“It has caused us to look closely at our cost structure and to be more efficient as a company,” said Musk during a response to an initial question on the pandemic, but when the topic came back around, he stated the lockdown will “cause great harm not just to Tesla, but to many companies.”
The remarks echo recent activity on his Twitter account, including sharing a video by a pair of California urgent-care doctors that has since been removed from YouTube and slammed by health experts, even prompting the American College of Emergency Physicians and American Academy of Emergency Medicine to issue a joint statement on Monday calling the pair's claims "reckless and untested musings" that "are inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding COVID-19."