Tesla’s Cyber Rodeo was a star-studded event that was equal parts marketing

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Tesla’s Cyber Rodeo was a star-studded event that was equal parts marketing, sales, and spectacle. But the party also had a more mundane purpose: showcasing the company to potential employees.

Tesla's Cyber Rodeo
Tesla’s Cyber Rodeo

Tesla says it needs 20,000 workers for its factory outside Austin, including manufacturers, engineers, and software developers.

That may be difficult in Central Texas, where a low unemployment rate and a flurry of corporate expansions and relocations have increased demand for skilled labor.

“A useful recruiting tool,” said Yael Lawson, COO of Workforce Solutions Capital Area in Austin. She says Tesla’s visit has boosted the manufacturing industry’s profile, allowing her to promote her company’s scholarships and training.

Of course, hiring was not the theme. In addition to the roller skaters in cowboy hats and live music, the 3x the Pentagon size factory was transformed into a carnival. Construction dust blew toward the factory, resembling the fine white chalk of the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada.

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Many Tesla employees brought friends and family to the party. SpaceX and The Boring Company employees wore branded hats and shirts. Throughout the event, recruiting was clearly a priority.

At least 9 Austin Community College (ACC) representatives attended, as well.

This partnership will “prepare students for careers in manufacturing, one of the region’s fastest-growing industries,” an ACC spokesperson said in an email.

Among the attendees were Del Valle ISD board members, the superintendent, and the workforce development team.

“Tesla gives students more options in a variety of industries,” said communications director Christopher Weddle. “We work hard to establish relationships with local businesses and industry for our students’ benefit.”

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Local engineering students marveled at cutaways of the Model Y and stacks of the new 4680 battery cells while navigating heavy machinery, art installations, and ID checks.

The company’s “Giga Press,” the world’s largest die-casting machine, created an SUV frame from just two solid pieces of metal.

There was plenty to see and do. The food trucks offered South African, Halal, tacos, and BBQ. Take in the art installations and massive Tesla coils, or win stuffed animals at various carnival games.

On hand were hard seltzer and cider to help pass the time while people waited in long lines for items such as Tesla hoodies (US$90), Cyber Rodeo T-Shirts (US$35) and trucker hats (US$30), and branding irons with a Tesla logo (US$50).

It was a Cyber Rodeo, so there were mechanical bulls to ride, and earlier in the day, a real one: Bevo, the UT Austin mascot.

On one stage above the factory’s main entrance, Gary Clark, Jr. performed a set.

Assembly robots clicked and whirred to their own beat under real-life spotlights, mimicking their movements when cars are built inside the factory.

It had a Disney-esque flair to it.

Unsurprisingly, some details were omitted, such as Tesla’s history of dealing with claims of harassment and racism at its factories.

A discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Tesla employee in Fremont, California, resulted in a US$137 million penalty in October. Tesla has asked for a reduction in the penalty, which a judge called “extremely high” in January.

Instead, CEO Elon Musk looked ahead. He believes the Austin factory could produce 1 million cars per year (including the Cybertruck) and that Tesla could one day account for 20% of the global auto market. A humanoid robot, Musk says, could be Tesla’s “most important product” one day, as well as the company’s ongoing efforts to develop fully autonomous vehicles.

He’ll need an army to reach these high bars. Musk’s Cyber Rodeo and Tesla’s overall charm offensive in Austin may have swayed more locals.

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The Austin Regional Manufacturers Association’s executive director, Ed Latson, said “exemplifies the brand’s excitement locally and globally. They do well in marketing, but also in recruiting talent, which is critical to their success.”

“At Tesla, we believe in throwing great parties,” Musk said after a 30-minute presentation about his company’s history and future plans. BLOOMBERG

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