Tesla unveiled the prototype of its Semi to much fanfare in November 2017.
Successive press events and public test drives built the perception that the Semi would enter production in the near-term; numerous large companies made preorders.
Yet, during the Q1 2018 earnings call, the Semi received no mention except in response to questions; CEO Elon Musk essentially admitted the project had been put on hold.
Lack of capital to build a manufacturing plant and apparent technological challenges have raised eyebrows since the unveiling; the financing situation has only gotten worse since then.
It appears increasingly certain that the Tesla Semi will never see commercial production.
Six months ago, the Tesla (TSLA) buzz was all about the Semi. This electric truck, which CEO Elon Musk unveiled to much fanfare in November 2017, was supposed to be a mind-blowing “beast”. Indeed, Musk promised that the Semi would redefine the trucking industry.
The glitzy reveal event had the desired effect, boosting Tesla’s share price and providing a welcome distraction from the painfully slow production ramp of the mass-market Model 3 sedan. Musk promised to begin production in 2019, a pledge that was swiftly followed by a raft of announcements from numerous big companies that had placed orders.
The Tesla Semi was lauded as a massively valuable game-changer by the company’s various boosters. With hundreds of preorders on the books, as well as promises that the Semi would be more cost-effective than current big rigs, it looked like Tesla might have a big winner on its hands.
Thus, it should perhaps come as a surprise that the Tesla Semi received no mention whatsoever in the company’s Q1 2018 update letter. Why would this potentially revolutionary vehicle get no love at all?
Wheels Come Off the Semi Project
The answer was provided during the Q&A portion of the Q1 earnings call. Here is an enlightening exchange between CNBC’s Phil LeBeau and Musk:
Phil LeBeau – CNBC LLC
With the Tesla Semi, how many reservations do you guys now have approximately? And where are you in the process as far as the development and the rollout of the first model in terms of timeline, when you guys expect that to happen, et cetera?
Elon Reeve Musk – Tesla, Inc.
I actually don’t know how many reservations we have for the Semi. About 2,000? Okay. I mean, we haven’t really tried to sell the Semi. It’s not like there’s like an ongoing sales effort, so sales – orders for Semi are like opportunistic, really companies approaching us. Yeah, it’s not something we really think about much.