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Elon Musk Still Spinning

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Elon Musk

Elon Musk

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Call me Mr. Schadenfreude, but there's nothing quite as entertaining as watching Tesla boss Elon Musk do his damage-control PR thing.

That's not to say that Musk isn't an admirable guy. Anyone who would launch a car company in this day and age--much less a car company based around a fully electric Roadster--has got at least one serious cojone. (The second comes from founding a space-tourism enterprise.) Musk thinks big and flies high, which is seriously impressive. So watching a man like that scramble to keep his balance when things start to crumble--well, that's why we watch reality television, right?

Musk's recent spate of troubles began when he realized that manufacturing estimates for the Tesla Roadster were a little off--as in $50,000 too low. So what was once a $92,000 car is now essentially a $140,000 car.  According to Musk, that "was obviously an extremely alarming discovery and ultimately led to a near complete change in the make-up of the senior management team." No kidding.

As we mentioned last week, Tesla informed pre-orderers that the final price of the Roadster would be higher than anticipated. Rather than just upping the sticker price, though, the company reconfigured the Roadster packaging and made certain things optional that were initially standard. Like the extension cord owners use to plug in the darn thing. You know, little stuff.

Musk has since gone on a PR push to assure buyers that everything is hunky-dorey, but he's clearly in a bit of trouble. He's made it clear that he's not using his $350 million fortune (mostly from co-founding eBay PayPal) to plug the holes in Tesla's leaky boat, but he sure wishes he could: "This has been incredibly hard for me personally.... It’s like eating glass." Translation: I feel your pain, but, um, pay up.

If Musk can hold on, Tesla's future iterations could pay off, as could its EV powertrain partnership with Daimler. Those may be very big "ifs", but we'll be watching. After all, that "go big or go home" philosophy is what America lives for.

[source: AutoCar, AutoBlogGreen]

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Comments (6)
  1. "what next?"

    This guy should be camped in Pelosi's office, ordering in for all her staff, until he gets a piece of the bailout. Maybe he should buy one of these closed plants in the midwest to make sure he gets the dough. Otherwise, he's gonna have to close the doors if he doesn't p*ss off all his customers first.
     
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  2. "Tesla has failed"

    Tesla has let America down. They need to go away now and let the others take the lead:
    Cheating:
    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/01/21/profile-of-paypal-an.html
    Battery Deal:
    http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/08/16/some-complete-speculation-on-the-daimler-tesla-deal/
    Lawsuits:
    http://valleywag.gawker.com/380125/tesla-finds-the-electric-car-business-is-a-litigious-one
    Cancer:
    http://www.saxton.org/tom_saxton/2009/01/tesla-price-increase.html
    Bad karma from the start:
    http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/11/tesla-s-musk-calls-cofounder-the-worst-individual-i-ve-ever-worked-with-
    More problems:
    http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/15/more-sparks-from-tesla/
    http://greenfuelsforecast.com/ArticleDetails.php?articleID=683
    http://erith1.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/tesla-single-handedly-sets-back-the-electric-vehicle-industry-by-10-years/
    Pissing off the customers:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/tesla-to-angry-customers-its-all-about-us/
     
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  3. "What do you expect"

    This is no surpirse to me, when first announced i was all for Tesla over last year or so it has become clear this thing isn't going to make it. I'm sorry you were $50K off, that is more than managements fault. Now you pay $140K but have to pay extra for the cord? Don't let him get a pinch of your taxpayer money. Let him fold.
    The reality of fully electric cars is starting to show its ugly head. This tech is at least 10 years off being ready for everyday consumers.
    The US should do what it has often done with tech, get the military to fund development costs and once kinks are ironed out can get it out to the public. Just as GM prevous alle lectric car it is an issue of going public too soon with tech not ironed out.
     
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  4. "BS"

    How many lies? A $50,000 per car undercharge? The Tesla is just tzero 1,000's of AA batteries 2003 tech and never worth six figures.
     
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  5. "Corrections"

    Elon Musk was part of the team that founded what became PayPal, not eBay. eBay purchased PayPal in 2002, which is when Mr. Musk cashed out.
    Also, Musk founded SpaceX, which is not a space 'tourism' company---the company's main customer is currently the US Government. SpaceX will probably save NASA billions (yes, with a B) of dollars by replacing a costly burocraticly-operated rocket program with a private pay-per-launch system.
    Finally, I would speculate that Elon's '$350 million fortune' is not very liquid as it is tied up in equity in SpaceX, SolarCity, & Tesla Motors.
     
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  6. "re: Corrections"

    1) I accept responsibility for the eBay/PayPal goof. Now that they're essentially one (and since I don't have much truck with either), I occasionally confuse them.
    2) As I recall, space tourism is, in fact, on Musk's agenda. He may be making bank from NASA at the moment, but I'd be surprised if he weren't planning to parlay his successes (or what we hope will be successes) to public transport.
    3) Musk's $350 million may not be liquid--whose assets are?--but it can certainly be leveraged for bigger bucks.
     
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