Tesla is tumbling 5% pre-market on the unexpected news that its relationship with Panasonic is fracturing. Panasonic, Tesla's long-running battery development JV partner, is reportedly freezing plans to expand the capacity of Tesla's Gigafactory 1 at the very same time that demand questions are starting to surface for Tesla, according to Nikkei.
The two companies had previously planned to raise capacity at the Gigafactory 1 by 50% next year, but the article states that "financial problems" are forcing a rethink from Panasonic. Tesla bulls are also going through a "rethink" in early morning trading on Wednesday.
In addition, it’s being reported that Panasonic has suspended its planned investment in Tesla's battery and EV plant in Shanghai. Instead, Panasonic will provide technical support and a small number of batteries from the Gigafactory. Tesla has committed to buying batteries for the cars built that Shanghai from a number of companies.
Panasonic is one of the largest producers of the batteries that power Tesla vehicles. The Gigafactory 1 has been making the batteries for the Model 3 since January 2017. Panasonic manufactures the cells for the batteries and Tesla assembles them into battery packs. Panasonic had said previously that it planned to expand the plant's capacity to the equivalent of 54 GWh a year by 2020. Its capacity currently sits at 35 GWh, where it looks like it's going to be staying.
Tesla and Panasonic have collectively invested $4.5 billion in the plant. Back in October, Panasonic president Kazuhiro Tsuga said the company would consider "further investment in North America, keeping in step with Tesla." After "consideration", it looks like they've decided to steer clear from further investments in the boy genius, Elon Musk.
Tesla's curious lowering of capex guidance at the same time the company has grandiose plans of expanding - both in Shanghai and in building the infrastructure necessary to build the Model Y - has baffled skeptics alike. The Panasonic relationship has been a cornerstone for Tesla’s business thus far and if the loss of this relationship is an indication of things to come, things could be getting a lot worse for Tesla shareholders before they get better.