What to expect at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk got a jump on the company’s annual shareholder meeting yesterday, answering a few questions — among the thousands received — via Twitter.

He chose to answer cutting-edge queries about his underwear preference and how he celebrates a successful shareholders’ meeting (commando and Cabernet wine from California, for the inquiring minds out there).

He also weighed in on how many factories it would take to duplicate Ford’s global production. (Ford has nearly two dozen factories). Musk believes it would be four or five Gigafactories, an answer that’s in line with previously stated plans. Though he did provide a bit more information on where, stating that these factories would be located close to the end customer, a hint that Tesla might eventually have factories in other key markets like China. Tesla has recently denied a report that it planned to open a factory in China’s Guangdong Province. And news coming out of China indicates that a move toward halting electric car permits might derail this strategy, even if it did proceed. Still, Musk’s latest comment on Twitter clarifies the company’s strategy to widen its geographic footprint.

Tesla plans to finalize the location for its third, fourth, and fifth Gigafactories in 2017, according to its fourth quarter 2016 shareholder letter. (Its first Gigafactory, near Reno, Nevada, will mass-produce lithium-ion batteries and make electric motors and gearbox components for its Model 3 electric car. The second Gigafactory is a solar plant in New York.)

Call his speed round on Twitter a warm-up to the real thing, an annual meeting that traditionally has abounded with informational nuggets and updates from Musk about what Tesla is up to and where it’s headed.

Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting will be held at 2:30PM PT at Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

The questions today will likely be a bit more probing than “boxers or briefs?” Expect questions — and even some answers — on Tesla’s upcoming Model 3 electric car for the masses, its plans for an electric truck, expansion of its manufacturing footprint, the integration of SolarCity into the larger business, and Musk’s future at Tesla. A request for the Model 3 offered as a vegan option wouldn’t be a surprise either.

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And expect a challenge to how Tesla structures its board.

Shareholders will vote today whether to declassify the board, a move that will force all directors to face an annual re-election as opposed to staggered, three-year terms.

The proposal was made by pension funds and has the backing of two proxy advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, which argue that the board is stacked with directors who have personal and professional ties to Musk. The goal is a more independent board that is faced with annual elections.

But Tesla is against this proposal, arguing that its board structure allows the company to focus on long-term strategies “without being distracted by special interests that seek only short-term returns,” the company said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company pointed to several examples of decisions that might have appeared counterintuitive, but set up the company for success, including its decision to be a car manufacturer not just a supplier of electric vehicle components, its acquisition of SolarCity, and its plan to build the largest lithium-ion battery factory in the world.

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