In an appearance at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday, Elon Musk addressed a wide range of topics, from the status of his Twitter Inc. purchase deal to the direction of the US economy and planned job cuts at Tesla Inc.
The CEO of Tesla and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. even spoke about American politics, saying he hasn’t yet decided who he will support in the upcoming presidential election when responding to a direct question about whether he would consider supporting Donald Trump.
Wearing a white shirt and gray jacket, the world’s richest man was eloquent and direct in the video link, answering a flurry of questions during the 20-minute conversation.
These are the main topics Musk addressed in an interview with Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait:
There are still ‘unresolved issues’ in the agreement with Twitter
“There is the question of whether the debt portion of the round will be met and then whether shareholders will vote for it,” Musk said.
The billionaire said last month that cwould put the purchase “on hold” while it investigated how many of Twitter’s users are real people, and then filed a formal letter with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) telling the Twitter executives that it might back out of the deal if the company didn’t do more to prove the true size of its user base.
Musk told the forum on Tuesday that he would focus on “driving the product” on Twitter, though he doesn’t necessarily plan to be CEO.
The US recession is ‘inevitable’ at some point
The electric-car pioneer told Tesla executives this month that he had a “super bad feeling” about the economy, according to an internal email seen by Reuters. In an attempt to mitigate a rise in living costs, the Federal Reserve accelerated its monetary tightening campaign last week with its biggest interest rate hike since 1994.
A US recession is inevitable at some point, he said on Tuesday. “As for whether there will be a recession anytime soon, that’s more likely than not.”
Job cuts at Tesla
“Tesla will reduce its salaried workforce by approximately 10% over the next three months,” Musk said, reiterating plans revealed this month in an email. “We hope to increase our hourly workforce. We grew too fast on the salaried side, we grew too fast in some areas.”
But on Tuesday he also provided more clarity on job-cutting plans, saying the cuts will usher in an overall decline of about 3% to 3.5% in Tesla’s total headcount, while employment is still expected to rise. number of employees per hour, Musk said.
The number of employees at Tesla, which is now based in Austin, Texas, has grown to around 100,000 worldwide following rapid hiring to build new factories in Austin and Berlin. The cuts, which have affected human resources representatives and software engineers, caught many by surprise, with several employees being notified of being fired without notice.
“A year from now, I think our workforce will be larger” in terms of salaried and hourly workers, he added.
supply chain problems
Supply constraints are the biggest brake on Tesla’s growth, not competition from rival automakers.
“Our limitations are much more in raw materials and in being able to increase production,” he said.
Musk said this month that the electric vehicle pioneer has had a “very difficult quarter” amid supply chain hiccups and urged workers to help get production back on track.
“As anyone who has tried to order a Tesla knows, the demand for our cars is extremely high and the waiting list is long,” he said. “This is unintentional and we are ramping up production capacity as fast as humanly possible.”
Trump and American politics
Asked if he would support Trump in the upcoming US presidential election, he said, “I’m undecided right now about that election.”
His comments are important as Musk signaled last week that he was leaning toward supporting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has positioned himself as a staunch conservative and heir apparent to Trump.
Musk said last week that he voted Republican for the first time in the Texas primary.
Praise to China
Musk has long had a comfortable relationship with China, including being the only foreign automaker allowed to own all of its local operations there and receive support for its Gigafactory near Shanghai.
Asked Tuesday if he sees any problems balancing his Tesla interests in China with the future acquisition of Twitter, Musk said the social media and discussion platform does not operate in that country and that “China does not try to interfere with freedom expression of the press in the US, as far as I know.”
He went on to praise Chinese companies, noting, “I’m very impressed with auto companies in China, in general, companies in China. I think they are extremely competitive, hard-working and smart.”
The Qatar Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Qatar Investment Authority and the Qatar Investment Promotion Agency are the sponsors of the Qatar Economic Forum, facilitated by Bloomberg. Media City Qatar is the host organization.