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Elon Musk says Tesla will not produce a new vehicle model in 2022, renews prediction on Full Self-Driving

Musk said last year he would join earnings calls only if he had something ‘really important’ to say

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive of Tesla, speaks during the Satellite 2020 Conference in Washington, D.C. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)
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SAN FRANCISCO — Tesla will not produce a new vehicle model this year, CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday, as it focuses on its existing output and deals with supply chain constraints.

Tesla will instead turn its attention to improving its production and what it sees as a groundbreaking bet in the form of software dubbed Full Self-Driving, which aims to perform everyday driving tasks with an attentive driver behind the wheel.

“We will not be introducing new vehicle models this year,” Musk said, speaking at the company’s earnings call. “It would not make any sense. We will still be parts constrained. We will, however, do a lot of engineering, tooling, what not to create those vehicles: Cybertruck, Semi, Roadster, Optimus.”

His comments come after Musk announced in July that he would no longer participate in Tesla earnings calls unless he had something “really important” to say.

Investors had been looking forward to Musk’s update because Tesla has fallen behind its timelines for delivering vehicles such as its Cybertruck pickup, the truck dubbed the Tesla Semi and its updated version of its sports car, the Roadster. Tesla has also been planning to build a humanoid robot called the Optimus that would assist in tasks around the factory or perform other types of “repetitive” work.

“The fundamental focus for Tesla this year is scaling output,” Musk said. “Last year and this year, if we were to produce new vehicles, our total output would decrease.”

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But Musk’s comments signaled another key area of focus: Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software suite. On the call, Musk renewed a prediction that Tesla would achieve Full Self-Driving, making vehicles autonomous. Tesla currently offers a feature suite of the same name for $12,000; it allows some to access a software beta that enables its driver assistance feature on city streets.

Tesla said nearly 60,000 vehicles in the United States are now equipped with the Full Self-Driving Beta. Musk said in 2019 that there would be 1 million robotaxis capable of driving themselves in 2020, in the form of Tesla vehicles. That prediction did not come true. And regulators and safety experts have increasingly turned their attention to Tesla driver-assistance features, named Autopilot and Full Self-Driving over concerns about whether they overstate their capabilities or lull operators into a false sense of security. (Tesla instructs drivers that they are to pay attention at all times and keep their hands on the wheel while the software is active.)

That didn’t stop Musk on Wednesday from issuing yet another bold prediction about the software’s capabilities.

“My personal guess is that we’ll achieve Full Self-Driving this year,” he said. “I would be shocked if we do not achieve Full Self-Driving safer than a human this year. I would be shocked.”

Musk aired frustration over a sense that “the gravity of Full Self-Driving” was not being fully appreciated.

“It’s not like some little feature,” he said. “It’s like the most profound software upgrade maybe in history.”

Autopilot is a feature set primarily for highway use that steers and keeps vehicles in lanes and can navigate from on-ramp to off-ramp with an attentive driver. Full Self-Driving Beta brings those capabilities to city streets, allowing the car to travel down a range of roads from thoroughfares to residential streets, make turns and respond to stop signs and traffic signals.

Musk joined Tesla executives Wednesday as the company discussed its quarterly figures, providing updates on the Cybertruck pickup and the Texas factory where it will be built. Tesla said it had begun producing its Model Y crossover at the Texas location, though it had yet to deliver the Texas-made vehicle to customers.

Musk had said he planned to provide the product update amid supply chain woes that Tesla blames for shifting some of its manufacturing timelines. Tesla posted a record $5.5 billion annual profit in 2021, and Musk said introducing new vehicles would limit Tesla’s ability to produce vehicles at the same output.

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Despite the success of its best-selling vehicles, the Model 3 and Model Y, the company has yet to produce its Cybertruck pickup, electric big-rig dubbed the Tesla Semi, or the Tesla Roadster, the updated version of its sports car.

“It was a breakthrough year for Tesla and for electric vehicles in general,” Musk said.

Musk also poured cold water on speculation about its intentions to build a lower-cost vehicle at a $25,000 price-point.

“We’re not currently working on a $25,000 car,” he said.

Tesla touted its 2021 production and delivery figures during the year-end update, including delivering more than 936,000 vehicles over the course of 2021 along with 308,600 vehicle deliveries in the fourth quarter. Tesla has grown substantially despite the pandemic — even during a manufacturing and supply chain crunch that has constrained other automakers. Its annual deliveries nearly doubled the figure from 2020 's 499,647 units, and exceeded last year’s quarterly figure for the same period — 180,667 — by nearly 130,000.

Musk is known for his brash — and sometimes erratic — behavior that comes on display during earnings call appearances.

In 2020, he broke into a profanity-laced rant during one such appearance as he decried shelter-in-place orders as “fascist.”

In July, he called subscriptions for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving driver-assistance features “debatable,” saying, “we need to make Full Self-Driving work in order for it to be a compelling value proposition.” The comments raised eyebrows for casting doubt on the company’s own product in a forum intended to promote its successes, though they reflected Musk’s occasional candor and penchant for oversharing.

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Musk said in the same presentation he would scale back his earnings call participation, saving his appearances for important announcements and revelations.

Analysts had expected Tesla to post strong revenue on its fourth-quarter performance.

“Tesla is coming off a robust 4Q performance in which the company despite the chip shortage beat … unit forecasts by 16% as a clear standout with many other auto stalwarts facing challenges across the board,” Dan Ives, analyst with Wedbush Securities, wrote in a research note.

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