May 3, 2019 3:45 PM, EDT

Autonomous Tech Could Make Tesla $500 Billion Company, CEO Elon Musk Says

TeslaTesla CEO Elon Musk (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News)

Elon Musk described autonomous-driving technology as “transformative” to Tesla Inc. in a call aimed at ginning up interest in the electric-car maker’s debt and stock offering of about $2 billion, according to two people who dialed in.

The CEO said autonomy is a fundamental driver for Tesla and key to how it could become a “half-trillion dollar market cap company,” said the people, who asked not to be identified because the call wasn’t open to the public. A Tesla spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The comments build on the case that Musk made during an investor day focused on autonomy last week that Tesla is on the cusp of having 1 million vehicles on the road that will be fully capable of driving themselves. The billionaire plans to put those cars into a shared robo-taxi service that the CEO described as being lucrative for the company and its customers.

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Ahead of the call, Tesla filed to raise at least $2 billion through debt and stock offerings, after a dismal first quarter depleted its cash balance to the lowest level in three years. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup hosted the call for investors May 2 with Musk and Zachary Kirkhorn, Tesla’s chief financial officer, the people said.

Tesla later increased the size of the stock offering, pricing 3.1 million shares at $243 each, according to a person familiar with the matter. That’s a 0.5% discount to close May 2. The offering was increased from 2.7 million shares.

Tesla delivered just 63,000 cars in the first quarter but said in a letter to shareholders last week that it expects to deliver between 90,000 and 100,000 vehicles in the second quarter. Kirkhorn reaffirmed that forecast during the May 2 call, the people said.