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Elon Musk says SolarCity will expand beyond solar panels

Elon Musk says SolarCity will expand beyond solar panels


AP/Ed Andrieski

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo., center, helps as SolarCity employees Jarret Esposito, left, and Jake Torwatzky, install a solar panel on a home in south Denver.

Tesla is getting into the roofing business. Well, sort of.

CEO Elon Musk joined SolarCity's second quarter earnings conference call on Tuesday. Musk is chairman of SolarCity, but Tesla is also in the process of buying the company in a deal worth $2.6 billion.

During the call, SolarCity's CEO Lyndon Rive, who is also Musk's cousin, said that SolarCity has plans to reveal two new products by the end of the year. Musk, though, elaborated and said that at least one of those new products is a solar roof.

"It's a solar roof, as opposed to modules on a roof," Musk said.

Rive confirmed that the company was indeed going to roll out a roofing integrated product.

"I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy, where you have a beautiful roof. It's not a thing on the roof. It is the roof, which is a quite difficult engineering challenge and not something that is available anywhere else," Musk said.

Rive added that there are about five million new roofs installed every year just in the US, and that the new product will be focused on the new roof market.

Musk said that it also won't cannibalize the existing SolarCity product because if a person's current roof is nearing replacement, a person wouldn't put modules on it. However, if they are in the market for a new roof, they could opt to get an updated roof that has solar capabilities built right in.

"So there huge market that is sort of inaccessible to SolarCity because people know they are going to have to replace the roof and you don't want to put solar panels on a roof you know you are going to replace," Musk said. "However, if your roof is nearing end of life and you have to get a new roof why not have a solar roof that is better in many other ways as well."

Musk likened the new product to a Tesla car. He said the customer will be given custom preferences and then sent to the customer as a kit so that it can be installed.

The timing of the product release is interesting, considering the merger between the two companies is expected to be complete by the end of the fourth quarter.

Musk has not been shy about his plans to venture into solar energy.

In July, he published Tesla's "Master Plan Part Deux" and said that the merger of the two companies would "create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world. One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app."

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