Tesla 2023 shareholder meeting: Musk says Tesla will try advertising

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In an aerial view, Tesla Corporate Headquarters are seen on January 03, 2023 in Travis County, Texas.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Tesla just kicked off its 2023 annual shareholders meeting at its Austin, Texas factory, on Tuesday with shareholders voting to add former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, who is now the CEO of Redwood Materials, to the automaker’s board of directors.

Redwood Materials recycles electronic waste and batteries, and last year struck a multi-billion dollar deal with Tesla supplier Panasonic.

After the shareholder vote, CEO Elon Musk kicked off his portion of the meeting with a commitment to conduct a third-party audit of Tesla’s cobalt supply chain, namely to ensure there is no child labor within any of Tesla’s cobalt suppliers.

Cobalt is a critical ingredient for production of batteries that go into Tesla’s electric cars and backup battery packs used at homes and for utility-scale energy projects. “Even for the small amount of cobalt that we do us, we will make sure six weeks til Sunday that no child labor is being exploited,” Musk said to the cheers of investors in attendance in person.

Since the electric vehicle maker’s last annual meeting in August 2022, Tesla’s largest retail shareholder, Leo Koguan, has criticized Musk for selling billions of dollars worth of his Tesla holdings to finance a $44 billion buyout of Twitter, the social media company.

Koguan, who is a billionaire and founder of the IT services firm SHI International, called for the company’s board to “perform shock therapy to resuscitate stock price,” namely by way of a share buyback late last year.

Musk is now serving as CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter concurrently, but recently announced that he has hired a new CEO for Twitter, Linda Yaccarino, the former head of advertising at NBC Universal. Musk plans to stay on at Twitter in the role of CTO.

Some institutional Tesla investors have admonished Musk for being too distracted with his new role as Twitter CEO to perform optimally at the helm of Tesla. They have also criticized the Tesla board, led by chairwoman Robyn Denholm, for failing to rein him in and protect shareholders’ interests.

Shares in Tesla closed at $228.52 on October 28, 2022, after Musk officially took over Twitter. They closed at $166.52 on May 16, 2023, as the meeting kicked off.

At the 2022 annual shareholders meeting for Tesla, Musk predicted an 18-month recession, teased the possibility of share buybacks, and told investors that electric vehicle business was aiming to produce 20 million vehicles annually by 2030, which he thought would require a dozen factories total with each one producing 1.5 million to 2 million units per year.

At that time, Musk also told investors the long-delayed Cybertruck would not have the same specifications and pricing that were originally promised when the company unveiled the angular pickup in 2019.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.