- Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke at a grand opening event for its new vehicle assembly plant in Austin, Texas, on Thursday.
- At the "Cyber Rodeo" party hosted by Tesla, Musk said the Austin factory is aiming to make 500,000 Model Y vehicles per year once production has ramped up there.
- Musk also teased products that are still in development, including the Cybertruck, which Tesla aims to produce next year, and a new "robotaxi" which he said would look "quite futuristic."
On Thursday night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke at a grand opening event for the electric vehicle maker's new $1.1 billion factory near the Austin airport in Texas.
At the event, he spoke about how massive the new factory is, and teased products that are still in development, including the Cybertruck, and a robotaxi that he promised would look quite futuristic.
"It wasn't easy building this humongous building and getting all this equipment here," Musk said, sporting a large black cowboy hat and thanking Tesla's neighbors in Travis County, as well as Tesla employees who helped build the plant.
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"If you put the building on its side, it's taller than the Burj Khalifa," Musk said, a reference to the world's tallest skyscraper in Dubai. He joked that according to Tesla's calculations, 194 billion hamsters could fit in the building.
Tesla aims to make 500,000 units of the Model Y in a single year in Austin, the CEO revealed Thursday night. The company is also hoping to start production of its Cybertruck in Texas next year, Musk confirmed.
However, Tesla's timelines often shift. Tesla, and other automakers, are grappling with chip shortages and soaring prices for raw materials exacerbated by Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine.
"In trailing twelve months, we've delivered over a million cars worldwide," Musk said. "There's still a long way to go."
Tesla vehicles comprise more than 75% of all fully electric cars sold in the US today, according to research by AutoForecast Solutions, with fully electric vehicles comprising about 4% of all new vehicle sales domestically.
Musk also announced plans to expand its experimental driver assistance program to a wider user base.
"We're aiming to go to wide beta for almost all Full Self-Driving customers in North America this year," Musk said. The company does not make autonomous cars, but sells a premium driver assistance package it calls Full Self-Driving. Owners who have the premium option can test out new, unfinished features on public roads through Tesla's FSD Beta program. Currently the program is limited to a selection of Tesla customers and employees.
Tesla built its Austin vehicle assembly plant in about two years from the ground up. Its first US car plant in Fremont, California, had been jointly owned by GM and Toyota before Tesla adapted it to build its Model S sedan and Model X SUVs, its first mass-manufactured vehicles, and later its more affordable Model 3 and Model Y.
The Fremont factory is still operating today, but Tesla aims to increase production of its Model Y electric vehicles and batteries in Austin, and to produce its unusual trapezoidal pickup, the Cybertruck, in Texas for customers in North America.
Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, told CNBC the new plant is sorely needed.
"With new products on the way, they need more plant space," he said. He believes Tesla's Austin factory, since it was freshly designed to manufacture Tesla products only, should help the company improve the quality of their cars, and reduce their manufacturing costs.
"They've built about a couple million vehicles so far, which means they should have figured out what works and what doesn't at this point. They should be able to enhance the positives," Fiorani said.
Musk said on Thursday night that the Model Y vehicles being produced in Texas feature what's known as a "structural pack," meaning the cells in the cars' high voltage battery packs carry the load of the vehicle.
Before the Texas event, Tesla had hosted a grand opening and started some commercial production at another new plant in Brandenburg, Germany.
The company's Shanghai factory, which began vehicle production in late 2019, has been closed for days on end due to covid health restrictions in the region.
Earlier this week, Elon Musk sent the share price of Twitter soaring after financial filings and Twitter revealed that he had taken an approximately 9% activist stake in the social media company and would take a board seat there.
Musk has built Tesla's brand on social media, especially Twitter, and non-traditional marketing events like the "Cyber Rodeo." However, he did not discuss his plans for Twitter at the company's party on Thursday.