Elon Musk Is the New ‘Technoking of Tesla’
The chief executive will retain his role while changing his title at the electric-vehicle maker
The chief executive will retain his role while changing his title at the electric-vehicle maker
Tesla Inc. said Chief Executive Elon Musk has changed his title at the company to “Technoking of Tesla,” extending an irreverent streak in the 49-year-old’s leadership of the electric-vehicle maker.
The company also said Chief Financial Officer Zach Kirkhorn will have the title of “Master of Coin.” Both Mr Musk and Mr Kirkhorn will maintain their respective positions as CEO and financial chief, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.
The company didn’t explain the meaning of the titles and didn’t respond to an inquiry. Mr Kirkhorn’s new title might carry echoes of Tesla’s ambitions around cryptocurrency. Earlier this year, Tesla said that it had invested $1.5 billion in bitcoin and that it aims to start accepting bitcoin as payment from car buyers.
Over the weekend, bitcoin crossed $60,000 for the first time Saturday before falling back. A steady stream of institutional demand has been credited with driving much of bitcoin’s rally since the start of 2020, when it traded near $7,000.
Other companies have also embraced bitcoin in recent months. Square Inc., which shares bitcoin advocate Jack Dorsey as its CEO with Twitter Inc., acquired about $50 million worth for its corporate treasury in October. Bank of New York Mellon Corp. said it would start treating bitcoin like any other financial asset, and Mastercard Inc. said it would integrate bitcoin into its payments network this year.
Most job titles for corporate leaders conform to a narrow set of variations, but some Silicon Valley companies have previously used fanciful language to describe workers’ roles. For years, some companies have used terms such as “guru,” “jedi” or “ninja” to colour job descriptions that involve expertise or mental agility. Other colourful titles to emerge include chief happiness officer, chief futurist and chief digital evangelist.
Tesla disclosed the title changes amid signs of a bumpier road ahead than in 2020. Rivals are showing early signs of eating into its market-share lead in electric-vehicle sales. The company briefly shut down some of its car production at its lone U.S. plant last month due to parts shortages. Tesla also has said it expects lower Model S sedan and Model X sport-utility vehicle output this quarter as it introduces updated versions of the vehicles, though it is increasing output of its Model Y compact sport-utility vehicle in China.
Shares in Tesla soared more than 700% last year, then fell more than 25% earlier this month and are little changed for the year. The company last year achieved record car deliveries, posted its first full-year of profit and landed a spot on the S&P 500 index.
Mr Musk’s new title could be intended to reflect Tesla’s view that it is the source of technology disruption over the long term, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a research memo, pointing to the company’s autonomous-driving work and its strides in battery technology.
Mr Musk’s role as Tesla’s public face hasn’t kept him from pulling cheeky provocations. Breaking away from the mould of big-company CEOs who make carefully worded public statements, Mr Musk often posts Twitter messages with freewheeling thoughts about subjects ranging from Tesla’s share price to science-fiction topics and online memes.
Tweeting has gotten Mr Musk in trouble with regulators. In 2018 he announced on Twitter that he was considering plans to take the auto maker private, a claim later deemed misleading by the SEC after it became clear he didn’t have funding finalized for such a move.
He denied wrongdoing but eventually settled with a deal that included him giving up his position as chairman of Tesla and agreeing to have any of his Twitter messages relating to the auto maker’s business reviewed before publishing them.
Mr Musk’s ownership stake in the company helped him surpass Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest man this year.
Also, Tesla on Monday named Jerome Guillen, who has run the company’s automotive business, as its president of Heavy Trucking. He oversaw the truck project in a previous role and, before joining Tesla in 2010, worked on trucks at Daimler AG.
The appointment comes as the car maker ramps up activity around its delayed semitrailer truck.
Tesla over the weekend tweeted a video of the electric cab driving on a test track. Mr Musk has said the supply of sufficient batteries has been holding back the truck. “If we were to make the Semi like right now, which we could easily go into production with the Semi, but we would not have enough cells for it right now,” Mr Musk said on the company’s latest earnings call in January.
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Food prices continue to rise at a rapid pace, surprising central banks and pressuring debt-laden governments
LONDON—Fresh out of an energy crisis, Europeans are facing a food-price explosion that is changing diets and forcing consumers across the region to tighten their belts—literally.
This is happening even though inflation as a whole is falling thanks to lower energy prices, presenting a new policy challenge for governments that deployed billions in aid last year to keep businesses and households afloat through the worst energy crisis in decades.
New data on Wednesday showed inflation in the U.K. fell sharply in April as energy prices cooled, following a similar pattern around Europe and in the U.S. But food prices were 19.3% higher than a year earlier.
The continued surge in food prices has caught central bankers off guard and pressured governments that are still reeling from the cost of last year’s emergency support to come to the rescue. And it is pressuring household budgets that are also under strain from rising borrowing costs.
In France, households have cut their food purchases by more than 10% since the invasion of Ukraine, while their purchases of energy have fallen by 4.8%.
In Germany, sales of food fell 1.1% in March from the previous month, and were down 10.3% from a year earlier, the largest drop since records began in 1994. According to the Federal Information Centre for Agriculture, meat consumption was lower in 2022 than at any time since records began in 1989, although it said that might partly reflect a continuing shift toward more plant-based diets.
Food retailers’ profit margins have contracted because they can’t pass on the entire price increases from their suppliers to their customers. Markus Mosa, chief executive of the Edeka supermarket chain, told German media that the company had stopped ordering products from several large suppliers because of rocketing prices.
A survey by the U.K.’s statistics agency earlier this month found that almost three-fifths of the poorest 20% of households were cutting back on food purchases.
“This is an access problem,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at insurer Allianz, who previously worked at the United Nations World Food Program. “Total food production has not plummeted. This is an entitlement crisis.”
Food accounts for a much larger share of consumer spending than energy, so a smaller rise in prices has a greater impact on budgets. The U.K.’s Resolution Foundation estimates that by the summer, the cumulative rise in food bills since 2020 will have amounted to 28 billion pounds, equivalent to $34.76 billion, outstripping the rise in energy bills, estimated at £25 billion.
“The cost of living crisis isn’t ending, it is just entering a new phase,” Torsten Bell, the research group’s chief executive, wrote in a recent report.
Food isn’t the only driver of inflation. In the U.K., the core rate of inflation—which excludes food and energy—rose to 6.8% in April from 6.2% in March, its highest level since 1992. Core inflation was close to its record high in the eurozone during the same month.
Still, Bank of England Gov. Andrew Bailey told lawmakers Tuesday that food prices now constitute a “fourth shock” to inflation after the bottlenecks that jammed supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise in energy prices that accompanied Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and surprisingly tight labor markets.
Europe’s governments spent heavily on supporting households as energy prices soared. Now they have less room to borrow given the surge in debt since the pandemic struck in 2020.
Some governments—including those of Italy, Spain and Portugal—have cut sales taxes on food products to ease the burden on consumers. Others are leaning on food retailers to keep their prices in check. In March, the French government negotiated an agreement with leading retailers to refrain from price rises if it is possible to do so.
Retailers have also come under scrutiny in Ireland and a number of other European countries. In the U.K., lawmakers have launched an investigation into the entire food supply chain “from farm to fork.”
“Yesterday I had the food producers into Downing Street, and we’ve also been talking to the supermarkets, to the farmers, looking at every element of the supply chain and what we can do to pass on some of the reduction in costs that are coming through to consumers as fast as possible,” U.K. Treasury Chief Jeremy Hunt said during The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London.
The government’s Competition and Markets Authority last week said it would take a closer look at retailers.
“Given ongoing concerns about high prices, we are stepping up our work in the grocery sector to help ensure competition is working well,” said Sarah Cardell, who heads the CMA.
Some economists expect that added scrutiny to yield concrete results, assuming retailers won’t want to tarnish their image and will lean on their suppliers to keep prices down.
“With supermarkets now more heavily under the political spotlight, we think it more likely that price momentum in the food basket slows,” said Sanjay Raja, an economist at Deutsche Bank.
It isn’t entirely clear why food prices have risen so fast for so long. In world commodity markets, which set the prices received by farmers, food prices have been falling since April 2022. But raw commodity costs are just one part of the final price. Consumers are also paying for processing, packaging, transport and distribution, and the size of the gap between the farm and the dining table is unusually wide.
The BOE’s Bailey thinks one reason for the bank having misjudged food prices is that food producers entered into longer-term but relatively expensive contracts with fertilizer, energy and other suppliers around the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in their eagerness to guarantee availability at a time of uncertainty.
But as the pressures being placed on retailers suggest, some policy makers suspect that an increase in profit margins may also have played a role. Speaking to lawmakers, Bailey was wary of placing any blame on food suppliers.
“It’s a story about rebuilding margins that were squeezed in the early part of last year,” he said.
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