Most of the solar cells Tesla is producing at its Gigafactory in upstate New York “are being sold overseas instead of being used in the company’s trademark ‘Solar Roof’ as originally intended,” reports Reuters. “The exporting underscores the depth of Tesla’s troubles in the U.S. solar business, which the electric car maker entered in 2016 with its controversial $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity.” From the report: Tesla has only sporadically purchased solar cells produced by its partner in the factory, Panasonic Corp, according to a Buffalo solar factory employee speaking on condition of anonymity. The rest are going largely to foreign buyers, according to a Panasonic letter to U.S. Customs officials reviewed by Reuters. When the two firms announced the partnership in 2016, the companies said they would collaborate on cell and module production and Tesla would make a long-term commitment to buy the cells from Panasonic. Cells are components that convert the sun’s light into electricity; they are combined to make solar panels.
The situation raises new questions about the viability of cash-strapped Tesla’s solar business. Musk once called the deal a “no brainer” – but some investors panned it as a bailout of an affiliated firm at the expense of Tesla shareholders. Before the merger, Musk had served as chairman of SolarCity’s board of directors, and his cousin, Lyndon Rive, was the company’s CEO. […] Panasonic also produces traditional solar panels at the Buffalo plant for Tesla, but has been selling many of them to other buyers since at least last year due to low demand from the California car company, Reuters reported in August 2018. Tesla last month reported a 36 percent slide in its overall solar sales in the first quarter, adding to previous big drops since the SolarCity acquisition.