Tesla stock rises as Elon Musk moves on from ‘one of the worst weeks ever’

//Tesla stock rises as Elon Musk moves on from ‘one of the worst weeks ever’

Tesla stock rises as Elon Musk moves on from ‘one of the worst weeks ever’

By | 2016-09-12T17:35:34+00:00 September 12th, 2016|Sci/Tech|0 Comments

Tesla Motors Inc.’s stock price rose in early trading Monday after Chief Executive Elon Musk unveiled what he called “dramatic improvements” to the electric-car maker’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving technology.

The Palo Alto automaker’s gain — its shares were up 1.8% to $197.95 a share shortly after 8 a.m. Pacific Time — was one positive note after Musk said he and his companies suffered “one of the worst weeks ever.”

Musk also is chief executive of rocket maker SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, and of rooftop solar-power giant SolarCity Corp., based in San Mateo, Calif. SolarCity’s stock also advanced early Monday, up 2.6% to $17.21 a share. SpaceX is privately held. 

Musk originally said he would announce the Autopilot changes Aug. 31. But the day ended with no word, and the next morning a SpaceX rocket exploded on the launchpad, putting the Autopilot news on hold longer.

Tesla's Autopilot shift to radar might have saved the life of driver in Model S crash, Elon Musk says

That added to other concerns about Musk’s empire, including Tesla’s plan to acquire SolarCity for $2.6 billion in Tesla stock and the automaker’s plan to roll out a new car, the Model 3, in late 2017.

Musk said Sunday that Tesla’s controversial Autopilot technology would rely more on radar to help the car see better and avoid collisions.

The announcement came after several Autopilot-related crashes, including a fatal Florida collision in May in which a Tesla Model S using Autopilot slammed into a big rig after apparently failing to distinguish between the white truck and the bright sky behind it.

The crash is still being investigated by federal safety regulators. 

Another Autopilot upgrade, called Autosteer, would repeatedly warn drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel.

In Sunday’s conference call with reporters, Musk described the aftermath of the SpaceX explosion and other problems contributing to a terrible week. 

“It’s just been a lot,” Musk said. “We are still getting a lot of flak for the whole SolarCity thing, which I think is unreasonable, and there is a lot of effort to solving Autopilot.”

No flying Tesla? That's because electric planes are a steeper challenge than electric cars

No flying Tesla? That’s because electric planes are a steeper challenge than electric cars

Thousands of electric cars are on the road, with many more set to join them over the next few years.

Electric planes? Not so much.

There are several small, experimental aircraft out there — NASA is building an electricity-powered plane set for a test flight next year and a two-seat Airbus electric…

Thousands of electric cars are on the road, with many more set to join them over the next few years.

Electric planes? Not so much.

There are several small, experimental aircraft out there — NASA is building an electricity-powered plane set for a test flight next year and a two-seat Airbus electric…

(Samantha Masunaga)

“There is a lot of effort on the Model 3 development and getting the factory, bringing up the factory for the Model 3 and, yeah, and then the rocket exploding,” he said. “One of the worst weeks ever, really.”

Musk is also trying to head off cash-flow problems. In a securities filing last week, Tesla said it would need to raise additional money by year’s end to finance the deal for SolarCity, which sells, leases and installs rooftop energy systems.

The deal has been widely criticized since Musk proposed the merger in June. Critics suggested that it would be a bailout of SolarCity by Tesla investors. 

SolarCity’s cash base is rapidly shrinking, even as Tesla must pay out $422 million to bondholders this quarter. However, SolarCity announced Monday that it raised an additional $305 million from investors to help its financing needs.

Tesla plans to start shipping the Model 3, a line of electric cars priced starting at $35,000 each, by the end of 2017 — though probably not in high volume.

The automaker is also building a $5-billion battery factory in Nevada.

Weekend Roundup: 7 stories you can't miss

Caption Weekend Roundup: 7 stories you can’t miss

The White house might close immigration centers, Gretchen Carlson settles with Fox News, ITT  Tech is closing, fans mourn Juan Gabriel’s passing, the Coastal Commission is rejected, the iPhone 7 is announced, and California’s climate bill is signed into law.

The White house might close immigration centers, Gretchen Carlson settles with Fox News, ITT  Tech is closing, fans mourn Juan Gabriel’s passing, the Coastal Commission is rejected, the iPhone 7 is announced, and California’s climate bill is signed into law.

james.peltz@latimes.com

For more business news, follow James F. Peltz on Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

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