Since moving Tesla’s headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin, Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest person, has condemned California’s taxes, regulations and Democrats. His followers jeered Musk’s Texas residency in late 2020 and the company’s move in the final month of 2021. But the electric car maker announced vague plans Wednesday with Governor Gavin Newsom for a return to the Golden State for its engineering headquarters.
His short tenure in Texas has been tumultuous. Here are five milestones of Musk’s year:
1. Tesla moved its corporate headquarters to Texas’ capital in late 2021.
Tesla left the Silicon Valley suburb that housed its headquarters since 2003 for Texas over a year ago, spending more than $1 billion on a factory to produce new vehicle models. But California will once again become its global engineering home after Wednesday’s announcement, while Tesla’s corporate headquarters are set to continue to reside in Austin.
Texas is the electric car company’s third-biggest market in the U.S. after California and Florida, and employs nearly 130,000 people globally.
2. New models undelivered at Gigafactory Texas
At a rodeo-themed grand opening party in April, Musk announced that Tesla would start production of three products that had fallen behind Musk’s original schedule. Previously Musk had said Tesla was delaying the introductions of new models as a result of challenges to scale existing products amid supply-chain issues.
But with the change of headquarters announced Wednesday, it’s unclear how it will affect the Cybertruck, Roadster and Semi models’ production timelines, as they were slated to start production at the Austin Gigafactory at the end of the year, according to reporting by Reuters. The Austin manufacturing site, dubbed Giga Texas, was expected to hire 10,000 people by the end of last year.An exterior view of Gigafactory Texas, Tesla’s automotive manufacturing facility being constructed along Texas State Highway 130 at Tesla Rd. in Austin, Texas, Wednesday, December 8, 2021. This is on the west side of the 3/4 mile long building. The company plans on building the Tesla Cybertruck and the Tesla Semi, both electric vehicles. According to Tesla, the Gigafactory is expected to be the largest building in the world and powered by renewable energy, with the goal of achieving net zero energy. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)
3. Tesla plants becoming ‘money furnaces’
Musk reported that both the Austin and Berlin Tesla plants were losing billions in June.
“Both Berlin and Austin factories are gigantic money furnaces right now,” the chief executive officer said in a video interview with Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley over the summer.
Tesla struggled to increase production in Austin of Model Y SUVs that use the company’s new 4680 cells and structurally integrated battery pack. To keep up with high demand for its cars, the company said in an April letter to shareholders that it would also make Model Y SUVs with the older 2170 cells in Austin — but the tooling required for that got stuck in China, Musk said.
Despite the financial losses, Tesla, unlike its peers, did not see mass layoffs last year. Instead, the electric vehicle company reported more than 29,000 new hires.
4. Launching toward space
Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has long hoped to send people to Mars. SpaceX’s Super Heavy Rocket recently had a successful ground test, and Musk has said he expects the inaugural launch of the Starship rocket system in the coming weeks.
In June, SpaceX checked off a prerequisite toward routine launches of its Starship rocket from a southern Texas facility. The Federal Aviation Administration said the expanded launch site near the Gulf of Mexico would get the greenlight for meeting federal environmental requirements once SpaceX takes more than 75 measures to address its environmental impact.
5. Twitter takeover
Musk has struggled to reign leadership of his latest $44 billion acquisition. Even as a Texas resident, he spent much of the year at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters while he took over the platform. Twitter’s remaining workforce continues to diminish through layoffs and changes to the site’s leadership and operations have created instability around the social media giant’s future.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.