Elon Musk has dismissed speculation he may step down as Tesla’s boss – and told the company’s annual shareholders meeting the electric car and solar panel firm will start doing some advertising.
“Say it ain’t so,” a shareholder said to Musk about stepping down as Tesla’s chief executive.
“It ain’t so,” he replied.
When another shareholder suggested Tesla tries advertising, Musk said he is open to it.
“This has some merit,” he said at the meeting at Tesla’s factory site near Austin in Texas.
Tesla has avoided paying for advertising, relying on Musk’s ability to generate free publicity — he has 140 million followers on Twitter, the social media company he bought for 44 billion US dollars (£35.3 billion) last autumn.
Musk told shareholders the company’s “Full Self-Driving” software is getting close to being safer than human driving.
He previously said the system should be ready this year, a pledge he has made for several years.
Tesla says on its website the cars cannot drive themselves and humans must be ready to intervene at all times.
The company has also been forced by US safety regulators to recall the software because it did not obey traffic laws in some cases.
The problems noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be fixed with an online software update.
“Tesla is not immune to the global economic environment,” he said, predicting the company will get through the period and do well, even when a lot of companies will go bankrupt.
Later on CNBC, he talked about the affordability of Tesla cars.
“If the car payments or your home payments go up, you have less money for other things,” he said.
He told the gathering sometimes the pain of working has been “quite excruciating”.
He called his time as CEO of Twitter a “short-term distraction” and said the company needed open heart surgery to ensure its survival.
It is now in a stable place and he is happy to have Linda Yaccarino, whom he hired away from NBCUniversal, to run Twitter, he said.
Musk said the amount of time he will devote to Twitter will be “relatively small” compared with the last six months.
Before Musk’s talk, shareholders voted to place Tesla co-founder and former chief technology officer JB Straubel on the company’s board for the next three years.
Mr Straubel left Tesla in 2019 to start a battery materials recycling company.
Shareholders also re-elected Musk and chairwoman Robyn Denholm to the board.