Elon Musk: Tesla Has No Rivals, Twitter Wants Half The World To Use It

While other car companies try to find ways to create buzz and capitalize on the momentum to attract attention, Elon Musk seems to be perpetually free of traffic anxiety.

On June 21, Elon Musk appeared at the Qatar Economic Forum, a nearly 20-minute appearance that almost became Elon Musk's personal show, from the acquisition of Twitter, layoffs, to the U.S. economy and Tesla robots, he spoke eloquently.

But after the loss of "talking nonsense", Elon Musk was clearly more cautious. In response to the acquisition of Twitter, he said he would be more limited in what he revealed, "because it's a sensitive topic and I want to avoid leaving evidence."

The quintessential tech geek, who once couldn't keep up with his brain, seems to be getting better at pinpointing what's hot on people's minds.

"Tesla will eliminate about 10 per cent of its salaried workforce in the next three months." Elon Musk said a 10 per cent cut in fixed-salary employees would be equivalent to a cut of about 3.5 per cent of the total workforce, "but layoffs are not a major thing for Tesla."

When referring to Chinese companies, Elon Musk again gave a thumbs up, saying he was impressed by the performance of Chinese car companies. "I think they are very competitive and the people at these companies are hard-working and very smart."

The Qatar Economic Forum, in its second year as a global economic event focusing on economic issues such as the supply chain crisis and imbalances in economic development, was attended by leaders from a number of countries and global business people, and in conversation with Elon Musk was John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News.

The following is a transcript of their conversation, with some excerpts from SuperEV-Lab.

a. Still blocked from buying Twitter, wants half the world to use it.

b. Denied that VW is a rival, and that the biggest enemy is the supply chain.

c.10% job cuts in 3 months, numbers will increase in the long term.

d.Stand by US politicians, not affecting China business.

e.Absolutely support dogcoin.

f.Release of robot at the end of September.

01

Want half the world to use Twitter

Q: How is the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter coming along?

Elon Musk: Given that this is a rather sensitive issue, there is very little I can say publicly. So I need to weigh it up before responding, to avoid unnecessary litigation and to minimise leaving evidence behind is the most important thing.

Q: Has Twitter given you enough information?

Elon Musk: There are still some unresolved issues in it. Twitter says that there are only 5% fake and spam users, but that doesn't match the experience many people have with Twitter, so we're waiting for those issues to be resolved.

There is also the question of whether the debt component of the round will be consolidated and whether shareholders will vote for it.

Q: You said earlier that Twitter should be freer and allow more people to join, who do you think should be allowed to join? Will there be restrictions?

Elon Musk: My vision for Twitter, or my expectations for a digital town square, in a broader sense, is that it needs to be as inclusive a system as possible. Ideally, it would appeal to 80 per cent of the North American population and half of the global population.

This means that Twitter is attractive to people and obviously not a place where people feel uncomfortable or harassed, otherwise people wouldn't use it. People can say whatever they want within the law, but there needs to be limits on the distribution of that content, pushing information according to users' personal preferences.

Q: It sounds like you want to be involved, do you plan to be the CEO of Twitter?

Elon Musk: I'd rather drive the product, even at Spacex and Tesla, I'm doing the product and the technology thing.

02

Tesla's biggest rival is the supply chain

Q: Let's talk about Tesla. I'm more interested in where Tesla's rivals are coming from. Some people are predicting it will be a new player, and I believe this prediction is true.

Elon Musk: I don't agree with that prediction, I believe those predictions are coming from you. (laughs)

Q: But do you think VW will be your rival? Or a Chinese car company?

Elon Musk: I would say I'm very impressed with Chinese car companies, they're very competitive and very hard-working and smart, and I think there's going to be a huge wave of Chinese products in the world.

In fact it already is, for example almost all iPhones are made in China, created by Apple's foundry manufacturers in China, and in many industries you will see a huge wave of Chinese products.

Q: Does China have an advantage in the electric car sector?

Elon Musk: We rarely think about competitors, we think more, in terms of raw materials and in terms of scaling up production. And the deterrent for Tesla is not from competitors, but a lot of the realities of the supply chain and the ability to build and manufacture.

For a lot of people who want to order a Tesla, there's a long waiting period, but that's not intentional, we're trying to increase production capacity as much as possible, so we really don't think too much about the competition. We just think about how to address the constraints that arise in the supply chain and how to build factories within our own industrial capacity.

03

10 per cent job cuts in 3 months

Q: Tesla is going to cut its workforce by 10 per cent, I would like to know what the exact figure is? What is the plan?

Elon Musk: Yes, Tesla will cut about 10 per cent of its workforce on a fixed salary, which is expected to be done over the next three months.

However, we estimate that we will increase the number of employees paid on an hourly basis, but the number of employees on a fixed salary is growing rapidly, too rapidly in some areas. There is therefore a need to reduce the number of people on fixed pay. There are about 2/3 hourly paid and 1/3 fixed salary employees, so technically a 10% cut in fixed salary employees would be equivalent to about a 3.5% cut in the total number of employees.

Q:Is that number legally significant? Would people say you're going to lay off 10 per cent of your workforce, even in the US, and announce it officially?

Elon Musk: We did announce it, and don't take an unfounded, pre-emptive lawsuit too seriously; it's a small case that won't have major consequences.

Anything to do with Tesla is a news headline. Whether it's a bicycle accident or something more serious. Whether it's important or not, everything related to Tesla is going to get a lot of hits, and I would put this in the unimportant category.

If you look a year down the line, I think we'll have more fixed salary or hourly paid employees. But in the short term, in a few months, it will see 10% of the permanent staff being laid off. That's actually 3.3 per cent of the total staff figure, not a significant thing.

04

Standing up to US politicians does not affect business in China

Q: What do you think the next economic conditions will be? Previously you predicted it hadn't been too good.

Elon Musk: I think at some point a recession is inevitable. As to whether there will be a recession in the near future, I think that is very likely.

Q: You've shown that Florida Governor Rwanda Santos is someone you can support, would you support him if he ran for president? Or Trump?

Elon Musk: I haven't decided exactly who I would support or lean towards, I think maybe it would be Santos.

Q: Now I'm asking, if it was Trump, would you consider him?

Elon Musk: I don't think a decision has been made yet about the future of the election.

Q: You've said you'd like to put up money to support super moderates, how much do you think you'd put up?

Elon Musk: I haven't decided on that figure yet, I don't think it would be a small amount of money, somewhere between $20-25 million.

Q: A lot of policies are talking about China, do you think these will affect your business in China?

Elon Musk: (after thinking for three seconds) No, I don't think there is an impact.

05

Robot release at the end of September, hopefully with AI regulation

Q: On Twitter you said you would back a cryptocurrency, do you think people should invest in it?

Elon Musk: I never said people should invest in cryptocurrencies.

Tesla and myself have bought some bitcoin, but it's a small fraction of our total cash and not very significant. Tesla and SpaceX accept dogcoins, which are used to buy goods. I see a lot of people who are not very wealthy encouraging and supporting me to buy dogcoins, so I respond to them.

Those who have worked at Tesla and SpaceX wanted me to support Dogcoin, so I did so.

Q: Can you reveal some of that, with the upcoming release of the humanoid robot on September 30th?

Elon Musk: I hope to show the very interesting prototype to everyone.

Tesla has a very talented team and hopefully by the end of September, the robot prototype will be ready and we are aiming for that point in time.

At Tesla's AI DAY, we have other exciting things to show. The reason for having AI DAY is to emphasise that we are not only a car company, but in my opinion, we are also the leading AI company.

Q: Have you noticed the recent drama at Google? One engineer said he thought that AI was closer to having a soul and developing personality traits, are you worried about that?

Elon Musk: I think we should be worried about AI, and in the long term we need an AI regulator to oversee AI in the public interest.

In fact anything that's a risk to the public, whether it's the Food and Drug Administration, or the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Communications Commission, whether it's a public risk or a public interest, it's always good to have a government adjudicator and regulator. We should also have an AI regulation, but there isn't one yet, that's my suggestion.



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