(Bloomberg) – For the third time last year, Tesla Inc.'s largest outside shareholder is openly arguing in favor of Elon Musk to refine its approach to market communications.
James Anderson, partner and portfolio manager at Baillie Gifford & Co., told Bloomberg that Musk, an avid user of Twitter, would not need to be social media savvy. But the president and CEO could change the way he talks about Tesla, which could be "fruitful," Anderson said in an interview with the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley.
"One should, overall, try not to give too many goals that might not be achievable, with specific dates for the institution," Anderson said. "And I do not think we want sudden reversals of politics. I hope this is not too much to ask a major shareholder. "
Anderson, whose company owns 13.2 million shares of Tesla, said his comment on goal setting applies to robotaxia. Musk, 48, said in April that by the middle of next year, 1 million Teslas would be fully capable of driving themselves. A few weeks later, Musk said his autonomy could turn Tesla into a "half-trillion dollar market capitalization company."
Musk, which owns 34.1 million Tesla shares, has made several strategic U-turns in the past year. Ten days after many employees planned to close the company's stores, except for a few, Musk backed down. And in less than three weeks last fall, he tweeted that he would try to protect Tesla privately and then abruptly drop the lawsuit.
Call for peace
Less than a month before Musk's private tweets, Anderson called for a period of "peace and execution" for Tesla, who was struggling at the time to accelerate production of the Model 3 sedan. In March of this year Anderson said that Musk should "be able to release himself from the obligation to comment" about Tesla, adding that the CEO "may be in the background".
Although Tesla shares have fallen by 28% this year, they are outperforming Chinese electric vehicle challenger NIO Inc., whose shares listed in New York have fallen by 42%. Baillie Gifford is the largest shareholder of the Shanghai-based company, with a 13% stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
"We believe in the process of exponential technologies over periods of 10 years and more," Anderson said of Baillie Gifford's investment in NIO and Tesla. "It's frankly almost inevitable – nothing is ever inevitable, but almost inevitable – that electric vehicles are a dominant factor in 10 years."
Tesla slipped 0.3% to US $ 238.25 on Thursday at 8 am in New York, before the start of regular trade. NIO was unchanged at $ 3.68.
Anderson is not the only one to weigh on Musk's outspokenness. In April, billionaire Warren Buffett asked if the CEO of Tesla needed so many tweets.
"He's a remarkable guy. I simply do not see the need to communicate, "Buffett said in an interview with Yahoo Finance. He added that Musk had "room for improvement" by behaving like a CEO.
For all the suggestions he has publicly made to Musk, Anderson of Baillie Gifford is far from being a critic.
"The last thing we want to do – and I would be resilient about this – is to rein in some way the tremendous donations and extraordinary achievements of Mr. Musk," he said.
(Updates with Tesla and NIO at the beginning of the negotiation in the ninth paragraph.)
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