Whether or not Tesla can continue its momentum will be determined by the future of the Model 3, the electric sedan to which Tesla has tied its fortunes, amid economic headwinds that include potential tariffs and the end of electric vehicle tax credits in the United States.
"As we improve the production rate of Model 3, the cost per vehicle continues to decline,” the company said in its report issued Wednesday after stock markets closed. "It is critical that we continue this trend so that we can keep increasing the affordability of Model 3 while retaining a sustainable level of profitability."
Improving customer service
Back in the United States, the biggest goal for Tesla this year remains improving its customer service.
Musk said the company has revamped a system in which spare parts were stored at regional warehouses. Now they’ll be distributed to customer service centers, so that repairs can be made faster. Improvements also include making it easier for customers to make appointments via Tesla’s app and real-time deployment of service vehicles.
In terms of general repairs, “We made a strategic error in the past about not having service parts at service centers," he said. "We had them at warehouses, which made it impossible to have a fast turnaround. It should be possible, in principle, to get a car serviced in 20 minutes, even 15 minutes. It should be like Jiffy Lube, or whatever. Lightning fast.”
Beyond service, Musk indicated that a new version of the company’s Autopilot driver-assist function would be ready within a few weeks, pending regulatory approval, though it remained unclear which regulators Tesla sought approval for, as there is no regulatory approval needed to launch driver-assist features.
Meanwhile, after returning to the electric-car maker last year, Tesla CFO Deepak Ahuja said Wednesday he will retire in the coming months. He will be replaced by Zach Kirkhorn, previously the vice president of finance, will assume the CFO role.
Reaction to the fourth-quarter results and Musk’s comments was mixed. Tesla shares fell 4.7 percent in after-hours trading to $293.80, as of 7:49 p.m. Eastern time.