April 3, 2024

Today's Topics

Good morning! The world’s oldest man, Venezuela’s Juan Vicente Pérez, sadly died today at the astounding age of 114 years… just a month before his 115th birthday. Today we're exploring:

  • Powering down: Electric vehicle sales lose momentum.
  • Changing teams: Microsoft’s workspace tool is breaking out.
  • The magic number: How much is enough to retire?
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Out of juice

Tesla delivered ~9% fewer vehicles in Q1 of this year than it managed a year prior — the first time its quarterly sales have fallen since the pandemic-induced drop of 2020. The company still shipped some 387,000 cars, giving Tesla back the “world’s largest EV producer” title — a boast it had previously lost to the Chinese battery-producer-turned-automaker BYD, which posted an even more dramatic 42% fall in its deliveries.

The news sent Tesla shares down 5% yesterday, capping a tough start to the year that saw TSLA notch the worst Q1 performance of any stock in the S&P 500 index.

Having been the industry trailblazer for so long, Tesla is now facing increased competition, relying on its aging Model Y and Model 3 to keep its sales engine ticking over — all while battling factory fires, shipping delays, and labor disputes in the Nordics. To jumpstart demand, the company has turned to price cuts (many of them) and even embraced advertising for the first time, after years of resisting.

Somewhere in the middle

Ultimately, however, both Tesla and BYD are battling gravity, as the market for all-electric vehicles softens. Indeed, a recent YouGov survey suggests that the problem might be more deep-rooted, with Americans increasingly skeptical about the true environmental impact of going electric, while the common worries of range anxiety (particularly in cold weather) and cost haven’t gone anywhere.

Ironically, sales of hybrid vehicles (+65% in 2023) are now rising faster than their all-electric counterparts (+46%) — Toyota has reported soaring sales of its iconic hybrid Prius series.

Conscious uncoupling

Microsoft is breaking out its Teams collaboration tool from its broader Office suite on a global scale. The split comes just 6 months after it unbundled the product in the EU and Switzerland — presumably to avoid future antitrust fines for tying products together, which in the past decade have cost Microsoft more than €2.2 billion ($2.4bn).

The entire genre of software that Teams now dominates barely existed 15 years ago. Instant messaging systems and good ol' email were, and in some cases still are, the backbone of office life, until Slack — an internal tool built at a startup called Glitch — started gaining traction. An acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge", Slack (which was acquired by Salesforce in July 2021) re-imagined work communications, centering conversations around topics in channels. Voice and video call features were added in 2016 — just a few months before its fiercest rival, Teams, was launched.

Slack infamously took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, “welcoming” the competition from Teams with some “friendly advice”. That playful tone quickly turned serious when Teams was added to the Office 365 product in 2017 for free, a move that supercharged its distribution to hundreds of millions of users in a few short years — much to the chagrin of its rivals, with Slack filing a complaint against the tech giant to the European Commission in 2020.

If you’ve ever felt victimized by Slack or Teams notifications calling you back to your work laptop, you do at least now have alternatives, with countless collaboration tools to opt for, including offerings from Google, Zoom… and even Facebook.

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The magic number

Giving up your full-time job for good obviously comes at a cost, but for many Americans, the price of retirement has never been higher: the average US adult now expects to need $1.46 million to afford a comfortable one-way ticket out of the working world.

That’s according to a new survey of 4,588 American adults commissioned by financial planning company Northwestern Mutual. The updated figures also revealed that the average respondent has $88.4k saved towards retirement in 2024 — some way off the updated “magic number”, which has risen 53% since 2020, far outstripping inflation.

As is to be expected, the amount of money we feel we need to live comfortably in our post-work years massively depends on our proximity to the ~65-year mark. However, external concerns like ever-rising healthcare costs and the actions of previous generations (at least according to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink last week) have perhaps compounded worries for younger workers.

Such factors, when taken with a pinch of the realism that only aging and first-hand experience with the realities of retirement can harness, see generations diverge widely on their necessary savings expectations. Gen Z and millennials, for example, now expect to need some $1.63m and $1.65m, respectively, up from $890k and $970k just 4 years ago, while boomers and older Americans in 2024 say they need just $990k in the bank to live out a comfortable retirement.

More Data

ChatGPT is letting its guard down and opening up to anyone: OpenAI removed the need for a login to interact with its flagship chatbot.

• Fewer students are giving it the ol’ college try as far as Harvard’s concerned, as applications to the Ivy League school dropped 5% year-on-year.

• Fast fashion giant Shein reportedly saw profits double to $2 billion in 2023, as the company seeks an IPO approval from London or New York.

• Truth’s out: Donald Trump’s social media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, is suing 2 of its co-founders after shares sunk 21% on Monday.


• Borrowed time: Charting the effective practice of winding the clocks back and forth.

• Shrink down and dive deep into this viz exploring modern computer chip manufacturing.

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