Tesla relaunches solar-panel business

Tesla Inc. has another new plan to revive its foundering solar division: rentals.

The Palo Alto, California-based company is now offering no-contract solar-panel packages as part of a relaunch announced in a series of tweets early Sunday by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk.

“With the new lower Tesla pricing, it’s like having a money printer on your roof,” Musk said in a tweet to prospective customers who live in states with high electricity costs. “Still better to buy, but the rental option makes the economics obvious.”

The relaunch comes less than a month after Tesla reported its third consecutive quarterly decline in solar installations, and less than three years after it bought longtime rooftop king SolarCity Corp. for $2.6 billion. The automaker deployed just 29 megawatts in the second quarter — its fewest yet in a single period. At its height, SolarCity installed more than 200 megawatts over three months.

“It seems clear that Tesla is now trying to rebound their growth volumes having hit record lows by reverting back to a ‘no-money’ down type of model,” Michelle Davis, senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, said in a direct message on Twitter. “Tesla will need to prove they can manage their financials successfully this time around.”

Since acquiring SolarCity, Tesla has made several strategic pivots that have contributed to an erosion in its market share. It ceased door-to-door marketing, ended a partnership with Home Depot Inc., cut jobs and opted to prioritize direct sales over the no-money-down lease that SolarCity popularized.

Earlier this year, it shifted to offering standardized panel systems online, rather than the bespoke arrays that’s driven the rooftop-solar industry’s growth in the U.S.

Tesla’s rental option can be had for a monthly payment that includes installation costs as well as support and maintenance, according to the company’s website. The contract can be canceled at any time, Tesla said, though there would be a $1,500 cost to remove the system.

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Tesla relaunches solar-panel business