Elon Musk He wants to be generous to his critics, but after years of fighting an army of skeptics in the rest of the auto industry and on Wall Street, The Tesla CEO’s frustration is hard to contain.
It has been almost a decade since the Model S His company showed that electric cars could compete with the best in style and performance. During these years, Musk has not only had to build a market for electric vehicles almost single-handedly while fighting bankruptcy, he also fought a battle with short sellers on Wall Street and started fights with regulators.
This year brought a measure of vindication, as companies ranging from Ford to Volkswagen to Mercedes-Benz undeniably compromised their future with electric vehicles.
“For a long time, the rest of the auto industry called me and Tesla fools and a fraud,” says Musk in an interview with Financial Times. “They said electric cars weren’t going to work, that the distances (of travel) and the performance could not be achieved. And even if it was achieved, no one would buy them. ”
Musk believes that climate change activists helped push auto groups toward more sustainable technologyBut he affirms that there is a primary reason why they are ready to go electric: “Until we started to take away market share in a significant way, they did not react.”
He is not the only one who thinks this way. Bob Lutz, a former vice president of General Motors and president of Chrysler, calls Musk’s impact on the auto industry “incredible, nothing short of incredible.”
Armed with 66.3 million followers, he has used his Twitter account to promote the dogecoin cryptocurrency. He also continued his provocations with regulators, including the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), despite paying a $ 20 million fine in 2018 after accusing him of committing securities fraud. with their tweets.
Tesla’s valuation surpassed the $ 1 billion mark this year, which made Musk the richest person in the world, despite selling less than 2 percent of the world’s new cars and trucks.
But nevertheless, Financial Times names Elon Musk “Person of the Year” because it caused a historical change in the automotive industry towards electric vehicles. In an age defined by new technologies, Musk he is running as the most innovative entrepreneur of his generation.
So do you think Musk that the goal that was set for Tesla more than 15 years ago, to lead a transportation revolution, was achieved?
“I’m quite encouraged, at least from what (other automakers) say. At least we have the floor. We made Tesla out of desperation not because we thought it would be lucrative, but just to show that it could be done. “
Musk it has many critics, but continues to enjoy a higher level of public approval than many. “I just try take people to Mars, enable freedom of information with Starlink, accelerate sustainable technology with Tesla and free people from the driving can“, He says. “It is possible that the road to hell to some extent is paved with good intentions, but the road to hell is paved mostly with bad intentions”.
His way of pushing the limits has given him problems. When asked why he’s harassing regulators, he says: “Some asshole might collect the handful of times I’ve disagreed with the regulations, write an article, and make it sound like a madman acting without thinking.” . And he adds: “At no time am I suggesting dissolve any regulatory agency or anything like that. I’m not some kind of impulsive libertarian. “
So, does the bad boy character of Musk on Twitter is it part of a marketing plan, a case of relief, or an unbridled idol display? He laughs and borrows a line from the movie Gladiator:
“I mean, aren’t you having fun?” And adds, “I’m not saying don’t make silly tweets, of course you are. There are times I shoot myself in the foot, but you know, on the whole, it’s entertaining and interesting, informative, whatever. “
An engineer at heart
Musk’s impact on the auto industry was a long time coming. Following his success as one of the founders of PayPal, the entrepreneur first invested in Tesla and became its president in 2004, shortly after its creation.
Musk’s own explanation for Tesla’s success revolves around his passion for engineering. “What people who do not work with me do not understand is that I am, above all, an engineer. How did Tesla and Space X succeed when other companies have far more resources and money than I do? The problem is that they can’t hire me”.
Musk says he spends seven days and 80 to 90 hours a week between Tesla and SpaceX’s most critical projects. “It’s not that I’m trying to micromanage arbitrarily. Actually, I participate in the process: What is the most useful thing that I can do? And I am very good with technology and engineering. Everyone has their talents, that’s one of mine. I don’t know how to sing or dance, but I can do it, ”he says.
Despite the wealth, Musk He says he doesn’t have a house or a boat or is going on vacation. “I don’t think there are many people who want to change places with me,” he says. “My goal is to work while I can, be productive and contribute; I would like to work a little less ”.
The Musk management style And the pressure you put on your employees to run into trouble has its drawbacks. Musk suggests that it is a quality that separates him from Jeff Bezos, whose space company, Blue Origin, lagged behind Space X. It speaks of its rival with mild praise, nodding to Bezos’s “reasonably good engineering aptitude”. “But he doesn’t seem willing to expend mental energy on the details of the engineering. The devil is in the details”.
Pushing the limits of the technically possible means that Musk’s companies they always flirt with disaster, even now. Tesla is trying to put a challenging new battery technology into production, and the company failed in its plans to launch a large electric truck, a new model of its original Roadster and the Cybertruck electric pickup.
As for autonomous driving, he says he is “99.9 percent certain (rounding to one hundred percent) that autonomous driving will work, it’s just a matter of when.”
For critics, Musk’s erroneous claims that Tesla cars are about to be fully autonomous are symptomatic of an executive prone to exaggerating the capabilities of his vehicles. So, have you misled Tesla customers about self-driving technology, with a potential risk to their safety?
“I haven’t,” he says flatly. “I don’t think there is a CEO on this planet who cares more about security than I do,” he says.
A sign of the musk success is that real competition is finally emerging in electric vehicles. Rival company Rivian has already launched its own electric truck, and Ford is launching an electric version of its F-150 pick-up truck in the spring.
But nevertheless, Musk does not seem concerned about competition and predicts that companies like Volkswagen and Ford They’ll succeed with electric cars, though he cautions Rivian is facing the same painful effort to achieve full-scale production that Tesla went through.
“I think people are not aware of the progress that China is making; is incredible”. He compares it to “the wave of Japanese imports that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. I think we’ll see something similar with Chinese auto companies.”
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I’m just trying to get them to Mars and get them out of the driving can: Musk