Among the voting items were a pair of stockholder proposals – you can read them in the 2015 proxy statement here and here – which, if voted for, would see the electric brand minimize, then end the use of leather in the interiors of Tesla product and see it the first to become officially "cruelty-free." Although the board, in advance, recommended shareholders vote against the items, the statements given by the proposers seemed to be greeted favorably by the majority of the people in the room.
Later, during the question-and-answer period, Mr. Musk was challenged outright on the usage of leather by Stephanie Downs, a representative from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which is a Tesla shareholder. Downs took advantage of her mic time to politely bring up environmental impacts of leather manufacture and offered to hook up Tesla with outfits that produce vegan leather-alternative materials. Musk seemed quite responsive to the request and said they would look into it. The results of the poll should be known by early next week.
Aside from the leather and battery-swapping issues, there were a number of other items that deserve mentioning, which we will present to you in point form below.
- Deepak Ahuja, Tesla's chief financial officer (CFO), has decided to retire after serving the company for seven years. Ahuja was personally, and somewhat emotionally, thanked by Musk and spoke briefly to the audience about his challenging time at the company.
- Tesla has begun to produce liquid-cooled cords for its Superchargers and has one already deployed. Although at first blush it might not seem like it, but this is kind of a big deal, as it allows its stations to use a smaller, more flexible cord and removes a limitation from increasing the potential power output of the stations beyond its current 135-kW limit. (No pun intended.)
- The recently introduced 70D Model S variant now accounts for one-third of orders.
- Musk has been test driving versions of the Model X and expects deliveries to begin in three or four months. He says the X is a better SUV than the S is a sedan. Internal safety testing is almost finished and it is expected to get five stars in every category and sub-category.
- After receiving feedback, Tesla has decided to double the power output capability of its 7-kWh Powerwall. The price will remain the same. Also, Musk better explained the difference between the two types – power cycling and power backup – of Powerwall, as well as the value of Powerpack for utilities.
- The Tesla Gigafactory will begin producing packs next summer. It will seek to increase its eventual output expectations to help meet demand for energy storage products.
- Musk is testing auto-steering functions on a weekly basis. Musk sees some improvements, but also setbacks. He expects certain "early access" customers will have this new option, and other autopilot features, enabled on their cars by the end of the month. He reiterated that 100-percent autopilot might be possible in three years, even though regulations probably won't allow its implementation until another three-to-five years beyond that.
- Some customers are "aggressively" using Superchargers for local travel, even though the stations are only intended for long trip usage. Tesla will be sending them reminder notes that "it's cool to do so occasionally," but the company doesn't want this to become a regular habit. Tesla still intends to put a solar installation at every Supercharger, where it's practical.