Why Tesla is offering rock-bottom solar panel prices

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Tesla’s solar ambitions sometimes feel like they’ve been lost in the shuffle as Elon Musk focuses on building electric cars, devising robo-taxis and fighting with the SEC.

While Tesla’s electric vehicles are gaining popularity, its solar business has been in retreat in an ultra-competitive market. Tesla lost its crown as America’s leading rooftop solar installer in 2018, falling behind lesser-known rival Sunrun (RUN), according to research firm Wood Mackenzie.

Now Musk is trying to jump-start Tesla’s solar business with a simple strategy: Cutting costs. Sharply. Tesla has started selling solar panels and equipment for up to 41% less than the national average.

“Tesla is likely hoping to use low prices to drive out competition and gain market share,” said Timothy Fox, vice president and research analyst at Clearview Energy Partners, an energy research firm.

To make the cost cuts work, Tesla has standardized systems and begun to require customers to order solar panels online, the company told The New York Times this week. By stopping door-to-door sales, Tesla is trying to slash so-called “soft” costs that play a significant role driving up the price tag on solar panels.

A Tesla spokesperson confirmed the changes reported by the Times. The new prices have been posted on Tesla’s website. Tesla announced last fall that price cuts were coming.

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