Musk skillfully played the part of a new type of CEO, one who made jokes on Twitter, got engaged to fans and even tried to redefine the very idea of ”fun” in a car. Then things started to change. Increasingly, the risks that Musk has taken are not with his money, or even with his own life, but with the money, careers, reputation and lives of others. And the boundaries that once held him are collapsing under pressure.
Tesla and Musk promised great things that automakers had never done before, and when critics doubted that those promises had ever been fulfilled, the company exceeded them. Musk promised an SUV that could travel over 300 miles on one charge and accelerate faster than a Porsche, apparently impossible ventures but soon enough, customers were driving them. Tesla cars could do what seems miraculous. They could be updated over the air in real time, including making sure reminders recharged when their electricity supply was threatened by fire. Tesla’s market capitalization grew and grew in an equally miraculous way.
Musk entertained notions of flights to Mars and at the same time denied that it was his home planet
. He has behaved differently from any other CEO of the car company before him, and legions of adoring fans have lined up, giving his Twitter account a level of attention that rivals that of President Donald Trump. When Elon Musk tweeted a vague clue of a revelation of the upcoming product
or reports of a potential planetary destruction, the news picks it up immediately. Also chirping (tWTR)
CEO Jack Dorsey asked Musk for advice on how to improve the service.
The CEO, Jim Hackett, doesn’t have a Twitter account.
Everything seemed perfect until it was.
In the summer of 2018, a men’s soccer team in Thailand got trapped in a cave that was rapidly filling up with water. While the 12 boys and their coach were desperately waiting for the rescue, Musk stepped in to offer his services. His team could use much of the same capsule technology developed by Musk space company SpaceX to build an underwater capsule to aid rescue, he said at the time.
But after one of the rescuers involved in the life-saving effort criticized the ship, Musk threw himself against, without foundation call
the rescuer a “pedo”, which is often short for “pedophile”, but which Musk claimed simply meant “disturbing”.
It was the first time that Musk’s apparent belief that he could do anything he knows better than traditional experts caused him a strong public reaction.
The rescuer he sued Musk for defamation
. Musk won and the civil victory only seemed to encourage him and seemed to defuse the effect that any criticism had had on him. While Musk was once the rebel leader of a rash scarlet, he was now the wealthy tycoon who had crushed a lone rescuer in court after having publicly called him, at best, “disturbing”.
Even before the lawsuit won, however, Musk’s Twitter account changed in another expensive direction. On August 7, 2018, Musk tweeted that he was taking private Tesla
at the price of $ 420 per share, and that the financing of the operation was “guaranteed”. Such an announcement would send shock waves into the business world, however it was made. The fact that he was tweeted with such relative nonchalance was either the hallmark of an unconventional executive doing business – or, perhaps, something that went off the rails.
It quickly emerged that the deal was far from done
and aspiring funding from Saudi Arabia never materialized. The US Securities and Exchange Commission intervened, saying that “in truth and in fact, Musk had not even discussed, much less confirmed, the key terms of the agreement, including the price, with any potential source of funding.”
Surely this would be the straw that broke the back of Musk’s Twitter feed. It’s one thing to target a cave diver without Musk’s enormous resources. It is completely different to hire regulators from the US federal government. The shareholders filed suit claiming that he was intentionally manipulating the price of Tesla’s shares.
The SEC wanted to ban Musk from acting as an officer or director of a publicly traded company, effectively demanding that he be completely removed from Tesla.
But it didn’t stick. Musk has spent the next few weeks mocking SEC
obviously from his Twitter account. After months of negotiations, the SEC agreed on a weakened deal, the only significant result was that Tesla would appoint a new president, and Musk’s tweets on some topics – largely limited to the company’s financial well-being and numbers. production – would now be reviewed by “a securities lawyer”.
It didn’t seem to matter to investors. Tesla’s share price rose higher and higher, soon reaching a larger market capitalization than Ford’s previous “Big Three”, General engines (GM)
is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU)
Then the coronavirus pandemic started.
In a county that is one of the hardest hit by coronavirus in the area
Tesla workers are returning to the company’s factory in Fremont, California. Despite an order from local health authorities banning the manufacture and assembly of non-essential goods, the Tesla factory started churning out vehicles once again over the weekend.
Musk, as usual, went to Twitter, saying that if anyone were to be arrested for violating the order, it should be him.
The local health department capitulated, adhering to Musk’s requests to reopen the factory next week, even though production has already restarted.
It is a situation that has lasted for months. Moss has long questioned the actual risk of coronavirus. Already in January he tweeted
that coronavirus was no more dangerous than other common viruses, despite expert opinion, is actually much more deadly.
In March, when there were just over 15,000 nationally confirmed Covid-19 cases, it was tweeting
that the United States would have “near zero” new cases by the end of April.
“Coronavirus panic is stupid,” he said he wrote
Also in March, when Alameda County, California, where Tesla’s headquarters and a manufacturing facility are located, placed orders to stay at home, Tesla delayed its closure for a week.
But by the end of April, the country was rapidly approaching one million cases. When Musk forced to reopen his factory, more than 80,000 Americans had died.
In a recent conference call with investors, Musk took the time to escape the restrictions on staying at home which, he said, were hampering his business, comparing them to “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes.”
In reopening the factory, Musk and Tesla said that steps were taken to ensure worker safety. County health officials said they would monitor these efforts to ensure that workers are, as far as possible, protected from infections.
Musk and Tesla are not known for making mistakes on the caution side even when it comes to security issues. After all, this is the company that provides semi-autonomous autopilot driving software for its cars, with the caveat that it is still in “beta test” mode. Musk and Tesla insisted that the software is, on balance, safer than an unaided human driver when used as intended. Other car manufacturers that offer such technology
however, they said they would not ask the driver to “beta test” the software on public roads.
The way Tesla isn’t waiting, though. While other automakers are waiting for blocking orders to be lifted to begin reopening their plants, Tesla is moving forward. For better or for worse, that’s what Tesla and Musk do. But now, apparently with nothing to the government or his company holding back Musk’s impulses, the well-being and lives of their workers are based on that decision.
And, for better or for worse, the barriers created by society depend on the institutions that maintain them to guarantee their strength. But these barriers were not designed to withstand an assault by an aggressive CEO supported by vast personal wealth, workers facing a soaring unemployment rate and a regulatory framework that crumbles in the face of an authentic and disastrous test. . With a hole the size of a broken Elon moss in those barriers, it’s not clear that anything is holding Musk back.