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Tesla Optimus robot probably won't be a big profit driver, Wall Street thinks

Elon Musk may be bullish on the potential of Tesla's Optimus robot, but Wall Street is taking a more muted stance on any potential machine army moving the needle financially.

"I would say no, but time will tell. He has proven the markets wrong before," said Wells Fargo auto analyst Colin Langan on Yahoo Finance Live, referring to whether Musk will go on to create a profit-driving robot army.

As for long-time Tesla bull Dan Ives at Wedbush Securities, he is optimistic on the company using robots in its factories to produce cars, but not to deliver packages or pose for Instagram stories.

"Robots will be in the Tesla factory over the coming years — a real business use with labor shortages abound and growing," Ives said in an email.

Tesla first revealed the Optimus robot — also known as Tesla Bot — at an artificial intelligence focused event in August 2021. The robot is 5-foot 8 inches and 125 pounds, It is designed to perform repetitive or mundane tasks that humans hate (or can't be hired to do in a tight labor market).

Musk surprised a few folks on Wall Street Wednesday evening with fresh commentary on the robot's potential for Tesla.

FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2020 file photo, the company logo sits on an unsold 2020 Model X at a Tesla dealership in Littleton, Colo. Tesla Inc. on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022 posted record fourth-quarter and full-year earnings as its deliveries soared despite a global shortage of computer chips that has slowed the entire auto industry. The Austin, Texas, company made $5.5 billion last year compared with the previous record year of $3.47 billion in net income posted in 2020. It was the electric vehicle and solar panel maker's third straight profitable year. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Tesla logo sits on an unsold 2020 Model X at a Tesla dealership in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

"So in terms of priority of products, I think actually the most important product development we're doing this year is actually the Optimus humanoid robot. This I think has the potential to be more significant than the vehicle business over time," Musk told analysts on the company's fourth quarter earnings call. "If you think about the economy, the foundation is the economy's labor. Capital equipment is distilled labor. So what happens if you don't actually have a labor shortage? I'm not sure what kind of an economy even means at that point. That's what Optimus is about. So, very important."

Despite the hype spewed by Musk on robots, traders still took their cue on Thursday from Tesla's core business perhaps losing some momentum entering 2022.

Shares plunged 7.6% to $864 on the session as Tesla said its business would be weighed down by supply chain challenges, mostly as it relates to semiconductor shortages. The company also said it would not unveil any new models this year.

Sales and profits for the fourth quarter did surpass analyst estimates.

Wedbush's Ives stayed upbeat on Tesla shares, however reiterating an Outperform rating and $1,400 price target.

"Taking a step back, with the chip shortage still a major overhang on the auto space and logistical issues globally, these delivery numbers combined with this 'impressive earnings beat' speaks to an EV demand trajectory that looks quite robust for Tesla with clear momentum heading into 2022," Ives added.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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