Elon MuskEnlarge Photo
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.