Reader note: While this post is about my recent visit to Austin, it’s mostly about the Tesla Cyber Rodeo. This was the party Tesla hosted to celebrate the opening of the Austin factory. I even made a YouTube video that I embedded later in the post.
I bought Tesla stock in 2012 for silly reasons. I thought Elon Musk was cool and the Model S looked good. I’m no Charlie Munger.
After almost going bankrupt a couple of times, Tesla is now a powerhouse of an auto manufacturer*. It has 4 auto factories on 3 continents and is well ahead of the EV competition. The world is pivoting away from internal combustion and Tesla is leading the charge. (see what I did there?)
Through it all, I held on to most of my shares. Again, I’m no investing savant, just stubborn. Being stubborn isn’t a great personality trait, but it can definitely benefit you when it comes to investing!
Because of Tesla’s success*, I’ve become a bit obsessed with the company. (this has a funny way of happening when one company becomes 25% of your portfolio) It doesn’t hurt that I’ve also been obsessed with cars most of my life.
Earlier this year, Elon Musk stated that announced that Tesla would be hosting a party to celebrate the opening of its new factory in Austin. I had to be there. Industrial machines are awesome and being able to see them in the flesh (in the metal?) would be awesome. However, I did have a problem; the party was invite-only. I don’t own any Teslas and I’m not a Tesla influencer. I was not going to be invited.
Friend To The Rescue
I met JT through the FI community a couple of years ago. JT is super-smart and a good human. And he happens to have a fancy job at Tesla. Win-win. If I had any chance of attending the party, it would be by way of JT. It makes me deeply uncomfortable to ask friends for favors like this. I hemmed and hawed for a while, but eventually gave in and sent him a text:
JT came through with The Golden Ticket and I was able to go. Happy happy, joy joy.
The big day had arrived! But since the party didn’t start until 4pm, I headed to downtown Austin to look around.
There were Tesla people everywhere. I spotted Dirty Tesla in a coffee shop. I didn’t want to bother him and I’m shy, so just moved on.
Next, I had breakfast tacos at Veracruz which were really, really good:
After that, I went to Austin’s main library which is awesome.
Finally, the time had come. JT and I drove to where the shuttle buses would take us to the factory. Tesla moved everyone efficiently**, so we were at the factory quickly. We got off the bus and were handed gift bags with swag along with drink and meal vouchers:
The atmosphere outside the factory was like a carnival; music, games, food, and surprisingly, a petting zoo. But we were there to see the machines, so we headed right into the factory.
I would have been content just looking at the machines, but Tesla knows how to put on a show. Many of the robots were in action. Some were moving parts back and forth. Others were dancing. One was drawing a Model Y on a whiteboard. Techno music blared in the background and Tesla lit up some of the machines with red and blue lighting.
It was all overwhelming and amazing. I could have spent days there. I hope to visit the factory again when it’s producing cars. Ummmmm, JT?!??
Completing the lower level of the tour, JT and I headed outside to get food. We had brisket sandwiches. When in Rome…
Hunger satisfied, we headed to an upper floor of the factory where there was much more to see. The first thing we looked at was the battery production area. This is where Tesla will make its new 4680 batteries***:
We then headed to another room where Tesla was showing off the Semi, Roadster, and Cybertruck:
Out of those three, the Cybertruck got the most love. Tesla is going to sell many, many Cybertrucks.
Tesla put on a spectacular drone show outside the factory. It was dark and the drones used lights to create various images in the sky including the Model Y, Cybertruck, Nikola Tesla, and a Shiba Inu (the Dogecoin dog). This. Was. Amazing:
The big moment had arrived. Elon Musk, sporting a cowboy hat and sunglasses, drove onto the stage in the very first Tesla Roadster. The crowd went crazy. Elon talked about the new factory and thanked Travis County. He talked about the state of Tesla and some of the near-term goals (FSD, Cybertruck, Robotaxi). Similar to other factory openings, some folks took deliveries of new Model Ys. After that, Franz van Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer, drove on stage in a Cybertruck:
Franz and Elon spoke to the audience for a moment, jumped in the truck, and drove off the stage.
Here is a video I made of the event:
And then, there was a petting zoo. This was strange since the event was adults-only. Hopefully, the Cyber Sheep enjoyed the Cyber Show. But, they were probably super-freaked out by it all:
WTF is going on?!?? I didn’t sign on for this! Drones! Fireworks!! Tesla coils!!! Drunk people everywhere!!!!-Cyber Sheep
Take me back to the farm!
Nerd Debauchery In Its Finest Form
Reflecting on the event, I went in with high expectations and it exceeded them. I would have been fine just seeing all of the machines. But seeing the robots in action, hearing the techno beats, feeling the wild energy of the crowd, seeing silver humans on roller skates, the Roadster and Cybertruck, drones flying in formation high in the sky…
Seeing Elon Musk was cool, but nerd-me enjoyed the factory most. The event felt like the Stark Expo from the Iron Man movie, only better.
And one final FI note; the only reason I got to attend at all was because of a friend I met in the FI community. I didn’t know what to expect when I started the blog, but the best part has been the friends I’ve made. Thank you, JT.
*Fanboy alert! As well as Tesla is doing now, it could easily be disrupted by Waymo’s robotaxi service. Why own a car when you can ride in a robotaxi, saving you tons of money? Tesla Fanboys point out that Waymo relies on LIDAR (expensive) and map data that must be updated frequently. Like most tech, the cost of LIDAR will come down (it already has significantly) and the mapping can be done by the robotaxis themselves. Also, consider that Waymo is now operating in San Francisco. Without a driver. Full autonomy. If Waymo can figure San Francisco out, it can do it anywhere.
**The event was very well executed except for the merchandise. There were 15,000 attendees and Tesla only had two small booths selling stuff. I wanted a t-shirt but didn’t want to wait 60 minutes to buy one, so skipped it. Mindy would tell you that I have waaaaay too many t-shirts already. And she would be right.
***Tesla speculation: Rumor is that Tesla is having issues with 4680 battery production. The first Model Y produced in Austin is a lower-range variant (less batteries). Interestingly and a little disturbing, the new Y doesn’t appear to be any more efficient than the old one. This is despite the new casting tech, stressed member battery pack, and 4680 batteries. The new Y should weigh less, so the only thing I can think of is that the first generation of 4680 batteries isn’t as energy-dense as expected.
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