We’ve been skeptical not only of basically everything Elon Musk has been doing over the last half-decade, but specifically about the company’s plans for its solar roof tiles – which were pitched as one of the reasons to help Tesla
bail out acquire the nearly-now-defunct Solar City, run by one of Musk’s cousins, years ago.
Additionally, some of the more well known Tesla skeptics on FinTwit have taken special exception with the company’s solar roof aspirations, with one expert in the field opining for nearly 2 hours back in 2019 about why he believed, logistically, that the Solar Roof “rollout” was nothing more than a charade.
But now it looks as though the mainstream media is finally starting to catch on to the boondoggle, as well. Bloomberg’s Dana Hull published a piece on Wednesday morning aptly titled “Tesla’s Solar Roof Rollout Is a Bust — And a Fixation for Elon Musk”. The piece notes that Musk has recently become “intensely focused on Tesla’s Solar Roof”, despite it just being a small part of Tesla’s business. This is because, Hull postulates that the roof is “essential to Musk’s vision for the company to evolve from an electric-car maker to something much grander”.
And we all know that Elon Musk is having a tough time turning a profit, ex-ZEV credits, as an automaker.
But the program is in tatters, the piece notes, potentially due to Musk’s micromanagement of it. “Musk has fired many of the executives and directors on the program, raised prices for consumers and gotten more heavily involved in its details,” Hull writes. She reminds the reader than when the product was first unveiled back in 2016, Tesla was trying to undertake the acquisition of Solar City, which was “rife with conflicts”. A shareholder lawsuit alleging fraud involving the buyout remains on track to begin trial, in Delaware, on July 12. Musk is expected to testify.
“It needs to be beautiful, affordable and seamlessly integrated,” Musk said about the company’s solar roof shingle back in 2016. “You’ll want to call your neighbors over and say, ‘check out this sweet roof.’”
Except now it’s a half decade later and the company has barely rolled out any solar roofs, struggling to hit 200 installations per week. This is despite the fact that Musk set a goal to install more than 1,000 of them a week back in 2019. It raised prices in April of this year, leading to a slew of cancellations, Hull notes.
Eric Weddle, an executive at a roofing company in the Midwest who installs Tesla’s solar roofs, told Bloomberg: “For Tesla, there is a lot of pressure to go fast and deploy fast. They tried to build a roofing company overnight. From our perspective, it seemed like the directive was to go fast and do more installations, period. And then suddenly, out of left field, came this sudden urge to get on a path to profitability.”
Hull writes that “The company is coming to grips with how vastly different it is to fine-tune roof projects than to fix issues on an automobile assembly line” – perhaps something they should have taken into consideration before pitching the idea to its shareholders and potential future investors all the way back in 2016.
Musk said his team made “significant mistakes in assessing the difficulty of certain roofs,” on the company’s most recent earnings call. “Production is going fine, but we are choked at the installation point.”
Mohammed Abdalla, the CEO of Good Faith Energy, another Tesla-certified installer, said: “The Solar Roof is not an easy product to install, it’s not a cheap product, and it’s going to take a lot of time to dial it in and bring the cost down.”
All the while, Musk seems to be flailing about, spinning his wheels. Musk fired both RJ Johnson, the head of Tesla Energy, and Ryan Nungesser, the director of operations at Tesla’s factory in Buffalo, New York, on a call in mid-April of this year.
Weddle concluded: “No one seems to be worried about the future of the program. Everyone is just worried about the people connected to the program. We still don’t know who’s running things, and I don’t think Tesla does either.”