Tesla profits up 30% but Elon Musk brands factory closures as ‘Fascist’

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Demand for Tesla electric cars grew during the first three months of the year, despite the Coronavirus pandemic and rants from boss Elon Musk about lockdown measures that have forced his factories to close. 

Quarterly revenues jumped 30% from last year to $5.9bn (£4.7bn), allowing the firm to turn a small profit of $16m. It is the third quarterly profit in a row for the company, marking a turnaround after years of losses.

But Tesla said forced factory shutdowns and limits on deliveries had clouded its forecast for the coming months.

“Frankly I would call it forcibly imprisoning people in their homes against all their constitutional rights…that’s my opinion,” said Tesla boss Elon Musk, who has been opposed to the lockdown measures since the beginning. “It will cause great harm, not just to Tesla but to many firms. While Tesla will weather the storm, there are many small companies that will not.”

Tesla boss Elon Musk slammed the closure of his factory as “fascist”, telling analysts on the company’s quarterly earnings call that the coronavirus shutdown is “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes”.

In an extraordinary rant, Musk said the local government orders were “breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong. Not the reason people came to America. What the f***”. 

The entrepreneur has repeatedly questioned responses to the pandemic that involve shutting down businesses and workplaces, including his own factories in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“People are going to be very angry about this, and are very angry. If someone wants to stay in their house they should be able to. But to say they have to stay in their house and they cannot leave. This is fascist. It’s not democratic,” he said.

Musk has been a longstanding Covid-19 sceptic, initially arguing – wrongly – that the virus would die out in the US by the end of April and pushing back against orders to close Tesla’s factories in California and New York. 

He posted that children were “essentially immune” to the virus, despite under-18s having become seriously ill from it. He later said he was repurposing SpaceX and Tesla facilities in order to build ventilators to treat coronavirus patients. However, it is not clear how many of these have been delivered to and used by hospitals. 

Chris Price
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