Panasonic would be stupid to skip the Gigafactory, since Panasonic’s “auto/industrial solutions” and “eco solutions” (car batteries and household products, respectively) — are now its most profitable areas. But it can’t appear too eager to participate. Excessive eagerness could cause two problems:
1. Less-favorable partnership terms.
2. Spooking conservative shareholders who might find Tesla scary.
Panasonic just held a six-hour talk with its shareholders, and of course the Gigafactory became a Whac-A-Mole game, popping up everywhere. Any new information from Panasonic? Not really. True to form, Panasonic avoided taking the plunge. Instead, it took the splunge. That’s the Monty Python term that means you’re not saying yes, not saying no, and not being indecisive. A review of Panasonic’s comments over the past few months reveals . . . a strong display of wishy-washy. Yes, Panasonic has signed a letter of intent, but many paper airplanes began life as letters of intent.
Feb. 25, Reuters: “We have a cooperative relationship with Tesla and are looking at various ways of strengthening that relationship in the future.” But, “But Tesla is a venture business, so there’s a need to be cautious in looking at the risks involved.”
March 27, Bloomberg: “Elon plans to produce more affordable models besides Model S, and I understand his thinking and would like to cooperate as much as we can. But the investment risk is definitely larger.”
May 21, WSJ: “Even if we do invest [in the Tesla plant], one factor would be how we’re going to divide up our roles and investments.” And, “We have no intention of taking on a big adventure all at once.”
Sigh. The best possible interpretation is that Panasonic is trying to prep its wimpier shareholders for a Gigafactory announcement soon. The worst interpretation is that Panasonic is spooked by “gōng hé” Elon.