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Rainy Austin Portends Major Upsets On The Professional Pickleball Association Tour

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Rainy Austin Portends Major Upsets On The Professional Pickleball Association Tour


The Professional Pickleball Association made a quick jaunt down the heartland of the country for a fast turnaround/back-to-back from last weekend’s event, and is in Austin, Texas for the third year running. This year’s Veolia Austin Open is being held once again at the Elevation Athletic Club, a former Tennis only club that is embracing Pickleball like many of its fellow Invited clubs are. Veolia is the PPA’s sustainability partner, and recently signed on to be the title sponsor for several upcoming PPA
PPA
events.

The tour visits one of the biggest Pickleball cities in the country. Thanks to Dreamland and Austin resident Steve Kuhn’s initial vision for the sport, there’s a massive contingent of pros who call Austin and the surrounding area home. Among the area’s residents include the Johns brothers, Julian Arnold & Lauren Stratman, Dekel Bar, Stefan Auvergne, John Cincola, Vivienne David, Vivian Glozman, Lea Jansen, Hunter & Yates Johnson, A.J. Koller, Jack Munro, Zane Navratil, Rob Nunnery, Lina Padegimaite, Thomas Wilson, DJ Young, and a few others I’ve probably forgotten. Imagine the pickup games these pros can put together…

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Austin is a 1,000 point-level event, which means it uses the conventional “play the whole division in one day” format instead of the “play one round a day for a week” progressive format. Selfishly, I like the old-school format from a coverage perspective (it’s much easier to write up a whole division at once), but as a fan I prefer progression for the match scheduling and ability to see all three disciplines each day.

Unfortunately for all parties involved, the weather really wreaked havoc on this event, causing most of Saturday’s matches to get moved and even some finals to get postponed until Monday. The tour used Steve Kuhn’s Dreamland for some of its matches over the weekend, an interesting development given the frosty relationship between the tour and Kuhn and the latter’s resignation from MLP last September.

Perhaps because of the weather, or perhaps because something else was in the air in Austin, we got perhaps the most unexpected set of results in at least a couple years on tour. Read on.

Click here for the PickleballBrackets.com home page for the event.

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Men’s Pro Singles Recap

The PPA had to cap the qualifiers for the Men’s singles, but still had 61 players competing for eight spots. The most “famous” name to have to survive qualifying was probably U-Texas star Jack Munro, who made a splash in Mesa and who just took a bronze on the APP last weekend. He survived a tiebreaker to get into the main draw. He survived one round, upsetting #22 Michael Loyd, but fell to #10 Quang Duong in the 32s.

#1 Ben Johns, who has been feeling the pressure from #2 Federiko Staksrud, survived his typical slow start (#28 Phuc Huynh took him to three games in the round of 32) to cruise past #23 Wyatt Stone and then #5 JW Johnson in the quarters to get to the semis. There he got a juicy match against none other than Jack Sock, who survived his own slow start to cruise past #7 Pablo Tellez and #13 Hayden Patriquin (who shocked last week’s finalist Garnett) in the quarters.

In that highly entertaining semi, Sock demonstrated his new two-handed backhand roll dink to go along with his powerful ground strokes and un-readable inside-out forehands to impress early, jumping up to an 8-3 first game lead. Then Johns ran off eight straight unanswered to win 11-8 and have Sock shaking his head. Sock roared back in game 2, whipping passing shots and quickly pushing for a breaker. But the tiebreaker was one-way traffic, with Johns just putting on a pickleball master-show, even playing (and winning) one point left-handed. Johns wins the first of perhaps many matchups versus Sock in three to move to the final.

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A side note on Sock, who a pundit postulated of being “overrated” in a social media post this past week. In his first four pro events as a full-time touring pro (Palm Springs, Mesa, Lakeville, and now Austin) he has three semis and a quarter in singles. That’s him quickly rising to the top of that discipline, and you’d be hard-pressed not to claim he’s already one of the four best singles players on tour. His results in Gender doubles (three 16s plus this weekend’s round of 32 loss) and Mixed (three qtrs plus this weekend’s update round of 32 loss) aren’t as immediately impressive, but most would agree that it is much more difficult to move forward in doubles in pro pickleball, even if you’re playing Mixed with Parenteau. It has become relatively clear quickly why the PPA invested in Sock for the future, and his combination of athleticism, showmanship, and shot making is nothing but a positive for the sport.

Meanwhile, the lower half of the draw played out almost entirely according to seed. Without having to deal with Cason Campbell, #9 Collin Shick cruised into the quarters before running into #2 Staksrud, who crushed him 4,2. There, Federico met #4 Christian Alshon, who dropped the first game in his quarterfinal versus #6 Dylan Frazier, but came back to take the tiebreaker 11-9 to setup a solid semifinal from the lower half as well. In the second semi, Staksrud made it five-for-five in making Men’s Singles finals in 2024 with a comprehensive 5,7 win over his up-and-coming singles rival Alshon.

In the final, it was #1 Johns versus #2 Staksrud, and Johns showed why he’s still number one with a 5,7 win. Johns takes back some of the seasonal points advantage Staksrud had claimed over the year’s first three months. The Bronze medal match between Sock & Alshon was cancelled.

Gold: Ben Johns. Silver: Federico Staksrud. Bronze: cancelled

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Women’s Pro Singles Recap

Word came out at the beginning of Thursday that #1 ranked and #1 seed Anna Leigh Waters was withdrawing from the event. Social media reports that she was suffering from a slight knock, and the loss of the dominant ALW (who has just 6 career losses in Pro singles since turning pro full time in May 2021) opened up the draw considerably.

The player to take the most advantage was clearly #16 Kaitlyn Christian, who got an easy win over #32 Katherine Allen in the 16s instead of a likely defeat to ALW to move on. In her quarter, she faced #7 Brooke Buckner, who has been incredibly impressive on tour after giving birth late last year. The pair split games and Buckner was well ahead in the tiebreaker, but Christian mounted a furious comeback to win 11-9 in the third and advance to the semis. The other semifinalist from the top half was #21 Parris Todd, last week’s silver medalist, who cruised through four rounds and three top 16 seeds to get to the semis without dropping a game. For those who thought Todd was a shoo-in were mistaken, as Christian ground out a 12-10 game one win then cruised into the final 10,3.

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From the bottom half, #10 Jorja Johnson (fresh off a Triple Crown last weekend in Sacramento) topped #10 Dominique Schaefer in the 16s to face off against #2 Catherine Parenteau in the quarters. The pair then played one of the odder matches in recent memory, splitting donuts in games one and two before Jorja cruised to an 11-5 game three lead and a spot in the semis. Final score: (0),0,5. There she faced off against #4 Judit Castillo, a two-game winner over #17 Jamie Haas in the quarters. In that semi, the ladies again split games before Castillo took out the Florida teenager to earn her first PPA gold medal match.

The final guaranteed a first-time PPA singles winner, and it was Judit Castillo who seized the opportunity, coming back from a game down to claim the title. It is just her 3rd ever PPA medal (she has two golds and multiple singles medals on the APP). Parris and Jorja’s bronze medal match was cancelled.

Gold: Judit Castillo. Silver: Kaitlyn Christian. Bronze: Cancelled.

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Mixed Pro Doubles Recap

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Mixed Pro Doubles kicked off Friday Morning with a couple of round-of-32 shocks. #6 Jack Sock & Catherine Parenteau continue their streak of not living up to their seeds, falling to Sock’s doubles partner/training partner Collin Shick & Brooke Buckner in two. Shick & Buckner may be seeded 26th, but they’re quality players and this isn’t necessarily a “bad” loss other than the fact that Parenteau’s team should be making medal rounds consistently (she owns 23 medals on tour, 7 of them gold).

Another underdog run came from #23 Parris Todd & Hunter Johnson, who took out #16 Jade Kawamoto & Connor Garnett primarily by overpowering the lefty Jade on the court. They could do little against #1 Waters & Johns in the 16s though, falling 0,3. The biggest shock of the draw was John Cincola, playing with former Michigan Tennis star and PPA signee Kate Fahey. The pair, seeded 47th, got a solid round of 64 win over Vich & Mary Brascia, then ground out a 2-game win over Lindsey Newman and Hewitt to reach the 16s. They played #2 seeds tough in the round of 16 but fell 10,4 to end their run.

#1 Johns & Waters cruised into the final from the top half as expected, taking out #5 Alshon & Irvine in the semis. The bottom half featured a small upset, with #4 Anna Bright & Andrei Daescu making a statement in toppling last week’s champs #2 Thomas Wilson & Vivienne David 9,9 to earn the final and Daescu’s first PPA mixed medal.

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In the final, Daescu & Bright handed Johns & Waters just their third ever defeat together, and rather handily with a 3,9,3 set-back. The Bronze medal match between Sock & Alshon was cancelled. It is Bright’s first Mixed gold since last April, and Daescu’s first on the PPA.

Gold: Bright & Daescu. Silver: Waters & Johns. Bronze: cancelled

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Men’s Pro Doubles Recap

The Men’s Doubles draw in Austin was very favorites-driven, with just two upsets in the round of 32 (both by withdrawals of the higher seeds), and then just one upset by seed in the round of 16. However, that one round of 16 upset turned out to be rather notable. #9 Zane Navratil & Christian Alshon topped #6 Julian Arnold and last week’s finalist Tyler Loong 11-8 in the breaker, then turned around and shocked the Johns brothers in the quarters 11-6, 15-13. Alshon won a gold in doubles a week ago, and Navratil took a bronze in early February, so these are no strangers to the podium, but a win over the #1 team in their hometown is notable (to be fair, it’s also Navratil’s home town). The pair took out #3 Staksrud & Tellez in the semis as well to secure a gold medal appearance from the top side of the draw.

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From the bottom side, James Ignatowich’s replacement Daescu turned out to be just as valuable in Men’s Doubles as he is in Mixed. Playing with Matt Wright, the #4 team cruised into the semis, then survived a donut 11-0 first game loss against the #2 team of Johnson & Frazier to advance to the final.

In the final, Daescu & Wright dominated #9 Navratil & Alshon to win in straight games 4,9,4 to claim the gold. It’s Wright’s first gold since he played with Ben last August during Colin’s ankle issue, and its Daescu’s first PPA gold (and his second on the weekend). Daescu, as he’s done so many times on the APP, takes the “double double” by winning both Men’s and Mixed gold. The Bronze medal match between the #2 and #3 seeds Johnson/Frazier and Staksrud/Tellez was cancelled.

Gold: Wright & Daescu. Silver: Navratil & Alshon. Bronze: cancelled

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Women’s Pro Doubles Recap

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As with the Men’s Doubles draw, there were very few upsets to be discussed in the early rounds of the Women’s Pro Doubles draw. The round of 32 featured just one upset by seed (and another by withdrawal), and the round of 16 resulted in just one top eight seed eliminated (#6 Jade Kawamoto & Andrea Koop, who fell to #10 Jesse Irvine and Rianna Valdez in two).

The quarters went chalk, but the three of the matches went breaker. #1 Anna Leigh Waters & Catherine Parenteau were uncharacteristically stretched to a third game by #8 Johnson & Pisnik, not necessarily surprising on paper given the talent of those two players. Waters & Parenteau returned to form, heavily winning their semi 2,1 over #4 Kawamoto & Kovalova, putting themselves in line for another gold medal match.

The only top-4 seed to advance cleanly out of the quarters was #3 Anna Bright & Rachel Rohrabacher, who blitzed #10 Irvine & Valdez in a portend of things to come. They ground out a 7,9 win over #2 Meghan Dizon & Etta Wright to return to the gold medal match and ensure their 4th medal together since pairing up to start 2024. That medal turned out to be gold, as the former Orlando Squeeze MLP teammates came out firing against the #1 seeds 11-4, then rebounded from an 11-3 second game loss to win in four. Bright secures the “double double” on the weekend, having taken the Mixed title earlier.

It is the first time Waters & Parenteau have lost playing together, and the loss ensures that Waters fails to secure a gold medal in a PPA tournament for the first time since the Las Vegas PPA Championships in October 2021.

Gold: Bright & Rohrabacher. Silver: Waters & Parenteau. Bronze: Cancelled

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Senior 50+ Pro Competition Quick Recap

  • Men’s Champions Pro Singles: Craig Bobo took the draw as the #2 seed without dropping a game.
  • Men’s Champions Pro Doubles: Altaf Merchant & Steve Deakin gave up a combined 12 points across three full matches to blitz the field and take the gold.
  • Mixed Champions Pro Doubles: The Mixed senior open division was cancelled halfway through due to rain and the weekend running out.

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The Pro Pickleball Medal Tracker has now been updated with these results; check out this link online for a complete pro medal history for all tours and all pro events.

Next up on the Pickleball Calendar? According to my Master Pickleball Schedule, the 3/24 weekend is packed: there’s an APP Signature event in Miami, the Seniors are in Las Vegas for the SPT stop, DUPR is hosting an intercollegiate regional event at my home club in Richmond, and DUPR is also hosting a Junior event in Tempe.

Next up for the PPA tour? April 7th in Cary, North Carolina for a rare Mid-Atlantic event close enough for yours truly to drive to it to cover it.

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Austin, TX

Tesla found a way to get out of environmental regulations at its Texas gigafactory

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Tesla found a way to get out of environmental regulations at its Texas gigafactory


  • Tesla’s gigafactory outside Austin won’t have to follow the city’s environmental regulations. 
  • The EV company was granted an exemption thanks to a new state law.
  • Elon Musk has said the property will be an “ecological paradise,” but Tesla has a history of violating the environment. 

Tesla’s massive gigafactory outside Austin, Texas will no longer have to follow local environmental regulations, thanks to a recent state law.

Tesla’s 2,500-acre property, which includes its 10-million-square-foot electric vehicle gigafactory, is in unincorporated land on the outskirts of Austin.

Despite not being directly in the city, most of that land was still part of Austin’s “extraterritorial jurisdiction” (ETJ), which allowed the city to regulate developments outside its limits.

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In February, Tesla applied for an exemption from Austin’s ETJ, which the city’s Planning Department approved in March.

The exemption was first reported by the Austin Business Journal this week.

The exemption was possible thanks to a new state law that went into effect in September and allows landowners to request to be removed from jurisdictions so that they can develop land with fewer regulations.

Several cities in the state have already sued to block the law, including Grand Prairie, which argued in a filing that the law will hurt the city’s ability to protect the health, safety, and welfare of those who live in and around its borders.

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But under the law, cities don’t have much leeway to deny a landowner’s request, Austin’s director of planning previously said, according to the Austin Business Journal.

Tesla’s ETJ exemption will enable the electric vehicle company to further develop its land without having to follow the city’s environmental restrictions, which an Austin city spokesperson acknowledged could harm locals.

“Releasing properties from the ETJ impacts the City because development in the ETJ is subject to limited subdivision regulation as well as regulation of water quality and flooding issues,” Shelley Parks, an Austin city spokesperson, said in a statement to Business Insider. “All affect people in both the ETJ and the City itself.” 

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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When the Texas gigafactory was still under construction before its 2022 opening, Elon Musk promised it would be an “ecological paradise” with walking trails for the public along the neighboring Colorado River.

Musk’s companies have had issues with environmental regulations in the past, however. In February, Tesla settled a lawsuit accusing them of mishandling hazardous waste in California. Meanwhile, the Boring Company has been accused of letting untreated wastewater drain into the Colorado River.



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Why University of Texas at Austin Researchers Made Compostable Sequins and Recruited Designers

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Why University of Texas at Austin Researchers Made Compostable Sequins and Recruited Designers


Instead of having material researchers just holed up in labs tinkering with new theories and concepts, the University of Texas at Austin enlisted some of them to join forces with other faculty, students and alumni in the school’s division of textiles and apparel.

Together they combined research expertise and fashion design knowledge to demonstrate how newly developed sustainable sequins can be used in a variety of ways. Now visitors to the Texas Science & Natural History Museum on UT Austin’s campus can see their creations in “Particles of Color: Where Science Meets Fashion,” which runs through the summer of 2025.

“Particles of Color: Where Science Meets Fashion,” explores the use of compostable, plant-based and biodegradable materials in clothing, accessories, jewelry and art. The 50 glittering objects on display were made with polylactic acid, a compostable material, that has been combined with natural and nontoxic dyes to create colorful, stylish clothes, jewelry and art. Made from agricultural waste, polylactic acid is easy to work with since it does not dissolve in water, but it will break down if composted, said Jessica Ciarla, a faculty member in the Division of Textiles and Apparel who is behind the exhibition.

“Polylactic acid is a bioplastic that has been tested and developed for other fields and is part of a growing global market, so it is a real contender in the space,” Ciarla said. “It can also be melted down and reused so it makes it an ideal choice for zero-waste production.”

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For added eco-friendliness, the team used non-toxic colorants such as algae, natural dyes, spices and food waste to create an organic color spectrum. “Approaching this research from an interdisciplinary perspective by synthesizing science, design and engineering has allowed us to see what the future of the fashion industry can entail from a collaborative perspective,” she said.

Museum goers are more accustomed to checking out the prehistoric dinosaur fossils in the galleries, but this new direction is meant to lead them to a vision of a cleaner, brighter future for the fashion industry. Science and fashion is an enticing combination, as more companies, consumers and organizations are increasingly considering how their actions and purchases play into environmental waste and impact the planet.

The impetus for this is to show the public what is developed in the lab in order to engage with the community and the fashion industry about the synthesis of science and fashion, according to Ciarla.

“Sustainability is no longer about what we need to do in the future, it is about what we can do now. We need to move the industry from using petroleum-based plastics to better options,” she said. “There are valuable resources typically viewed as trash such as agriculture waste that can be used to create plant-based plastics that provide cleaner options.”

How each of the designers featured the sustainable sequins in their work that is on display in “Particles of Color” reflects its multiple potential applications.

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The sustainable sequins can be used in different elements of fashion design.

Image Courtesy University of Texas at Austin

Ciarla is also previewing a prototype of a non-woven textile she created using denim and paperboard made from cereal boxes to develop a fabric that could be used for handbags. Visitors can check out the first experimental prototype of this textile in a digitally printed fabric that Ciarla made into mini handbags with floral sequins attached. She explained, “Showing how other materials derived from waste can work together is a look towards our future research and how we intend to expand our material development to other segments of the textile and material supply industry.”

“Particles of Color” also provides a commentary for the fashion industry’s contribution to plastics pollution. Of the 100 billion items of clothing that are produced each year, 70 percent of them are made of plastic, according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Creating all those synthetic materials for polyester, nylon and acrylics annually involves using what amounts to the equivalent of 300 million bathtubs filled with petroleum. Ciarla said, “We wanted to show that there is a way to create something better with the materials we have right now.”

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Developing a commercial prototype is in the works, and the exhibit’s industry partners have highlighted a few of the diverse applications. Designers like Diana Broussard of New York City and Nikolaj Storm of Copenhagen incorporated the sustainable material into their respective garments and accessories that are on display. As is often the case, when it comes to materializing concepts into production, the next step is to generate funding so that Ciarla and her team can expand product offerings and work with manufacturing facilities, who can “help us scale up while integrating our core beliefs of building a sustainable business model,” she said.

The museum’s director Carolyn Connerat said that visitors “can explore how research happening right here on the UT Austin campus can make an impact on the natural world by creating compostable materials used in clothing we all can wear.”

Paricles of Color

The University of Texas at Austin is highlighting the work of researchers in fashion design.

Photo by Nolan Zunk/Courtesy the University of Texas at Austin

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UT’s research into sustainable sequins started five years ago, when a President’s Award for Global Learning was presented to Ciarla; Nathaniel Lynd, an associate professor in the McKetta department of chemical engineering, and Luisa Gil Fandino, an associate professor of textiles and apparel.

The show highlights how UT researchers adapted the material for use in fashion, and there are fashion examples created by designers from Austin and New York.

The installation is the first new exhibition at Texas Science & Natural History Museum since it reopened in September 2023 after an 18-month closure and extensive renovation. The fourth floor of the museum has been designated the Science Frontiers Gallery and is designed to house exhibits on advanced scientific research and demonstrate how scientific discovery can help address current issues and concerns.



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Tesla shares rise on plans to accelerate launch of ‘more affordable’ models

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Tesla shares rise on plans to accelerate launch of ‘more affordable’ models


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Tesla has pledged to bring forward the launch of “more affordable” models of its electric vehicles, helping its stock recover some of its recent losses despite reporting a 9 per cent decline in first-quarter revenue amid a sharp fall in sales.

In a filing on Tuesday, the electric-car maker said it had “updated our future vehicle line-up to accelerate the launch of new models ahead of our previously communicated start of production in the second half of 2025”.

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It added that these would include “more affordable” vehicles that could be produced on its existing manufacturing lines. Tesla shares rose more than 12 per cent in after-hours trading.

Chief executive Elon Musk said in January that Tesla was preparing to start production of a new lower-cost car next year, priced at $25,000 and dubbed Model 2. The stock had fallen on a Reuters report earlier this month that the project had been shelved, which Musk denied.

On a conference call, Musk refused to be drawn on specific plans for an affordable “next generation vehicle” or how it would be produced using Tesla’s current infrastructure. He had previously said the Model 2 would require a new “revolutionary manufacturing system” at factories in Austin, Texas, as well as in Mexico.

Instead, Musk said more information would be given alongside an August announcement about “robotaxis” and sketched an ambitious vision for Tesla as an “AI and robotics company” based around its autonomous driving system and humanoid robots.

“If you value Tesla just as an auto company you fundamentally have the wrong framework. If you ask the wrong question, the right answer is impossible,” he said. “If somebody doesn’t believe Tesla is going to solve autonomy they should not be an investor in the company. And we will and we are.”

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The results come at turbulent time for Musk and the EV sector. Before Tuesday’s after-hours share price rise, Tesla stock had plunged more than 40 per cent since the start of the year after warning of slowing vehicle deliveries, eroding profit margins, a potential move of its incorporation to Texas from Delaware and revealing plans to cut more than 10 per cent of its workforce — at least 14,000 jobs.

Most big US carmakers have reported a drop in EV sales due to softening consumer demand, a shift in preference to hybrids and increased competition from low-cost options from Chinese brands.

“While Tesla has real issues to contend with, we believe the company’s long-term upward trajectory remains intact,” said Christopher Tsai of Tsai Capital, which holds Tesla stock. “The potential for high-margin autonomy revenue should not go unheeded.”

Absent the enthusiasm about a new vehicle line-up, the underlying financial performance remained disappointing. First-quarter revenue fell to $21.3bn from $23.3bn in the same period last year, missing analysts’ expectations for $22.3bn. That marks Tesla’s first year-on-year quarterly drop since the start of 2020.

Adjusted earnings per share almost halved from a year ago to 45 cents, versus estimates for 52 cents, and the carmaker reported a sixth consecutive quarter of declining gross margins. The closely watched financial metric fell to 17.4 per cent, down from a peak of 29.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2022.

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“We experienced numerous challenges, from the Red Sea conflict and the arson attack at Gigafactory Berlin, to the gradual [increase in production] of the updated Model 3 in Fremont,” Tesla said of the start to the year. “Global EV sales continue to be under pressure as many carmakers prioritise hybrid over EVs. ”

Earlier this month, Tesla said it had delivered 386,810 electric cars between January and March, a fifth lower than the previous quarter, and 8 per cent below the same period in 2023. It has continued to cut prices for its most popular models as unsold-vehicle inventory piles up: that measure rose to 28 days of supply from 15 days a year ago.

Tesla still makes more than 80 per cent of its revenue from selling cars. Excluding the effects of regulatory credits, the gross margin from its automotive unit — a closely watched measure of its core operations — fell to 16.4 per cent for the quarter, down from 19 per cent a year ago.

Musk’s commitment to AI was evident in a big jump in “AI infrastructure capex” to $1bn, resulting in cash flow of negative $2.5bn in the period.

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He said that Tesla had installed 35,000 H100 Nvidia AI model training graphics processing units and that this number would rise to 85,000 by year end. He added that its humanoid robot, dubbed Optimus, would be “more valuable than everything else combined”.

Musk is also seeking to change the company’s state of incorporation to Texas, partly in protest at a Delaware court decision to void a $56bn pay package he was awarded in 2018. Shareholders will vote on the move and whether to reaffirm his share award at its annual meeting in June.

Additional reporting by Richard Waters



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