Ever since Tesla Motors’ initial public offering, a debate has raged between bears and bulls over whether the company is a highly overvalued automaker or a potentially undervalued tech company. The bulls’ case — which holds that the maker of electric cars would be better compared to companies such as Apple and Amazon than automakers such as GM and Ford — has propelled Tesla to market valuations that have titans of the car game both baffled and envious. But as Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk tries to guide his company through a critical transition from maker of small-batch luxury cars to producer of mainstream volumes, he appears to have had an epiphany: Tesla needs to become a lot more like the automakers his investors can’t stop deriding.
“Thus far, I think we’ve done a good job on design and technology of our products,” Musk told analysts during Tesla’s quarterly earnings call this week. “The key thing we need to achieve in the future is to also be the leader in manufacturing.” This characteristically immodest goal isn’t new according to Musk, who says “we take manufacturing very seriously at Tesla,” but the company has a long way to go.