The title ought to get your attention.
I’ve felt considerable angst lately over the behavior of Elon Musk and its potential impact on Tesla, the car company. It truly pains me to use the names Musk and Trump together in the same vicinity – or even in the same universe – but, unfortunately, I think a comparison of these two outsize personalities right now might be instructive.
My interest in Tesla is twofold: first, as the ecstatic owner of a gleaming white Tesla Model 3 long-range, which I was upsold after the originally promised $35K sedan didn’t materialize (no hard feelings or regrets, though); and, second, as a climate activist who fervently believes that, to have any shot at a livable planet for humans, as long as we continue to need automobiles they must be electric.
Elon Musk believes this, too. That’s why he started Tesla and has risked so much of his personal fortune. That’s why Tesla is far and away ahead of the competition in design and development of electric vehicles. And right now, just in the last three months, Tesla is outselling all the competition: ICE (internal combustion engine), electric, and hybrid – many times over.
Then comes Musk’s recent aberrant behavior. Okay, he’s overworked, sleep-deprived, and under a lot of stress. Tesla believers, including me, cut him a fair amount of slack for that, but enough is enough. Horrifyingly, his recent behavior on Twitter and in the public eye begs for comparison to Trump’s.
First let’s get a few things straight. Elon Musk is a visionary and a technical genius; Trump is an ignorant slob and a con artist who’s spent his whole life using wealth inherited from his father to screw other people. Elon Musk is several orders of magnitude more intelligent than Trump. Musk is well-intentioned and Trump is mean-spirited. Musk has a soul and wants to save the world; Trump “lacks the capacity for empathy” (to put it mildly) and cares only about himself. Both have sizable egos, but beneath Musk’s lies justified self-confidence, while beneath Trump’s lies pathetic insecurity and approval-seeking.
Now for one sad similarity. Both take to Twitter or make outrageous statements in moments where they lose their self-control (in Trump’s case, nearly every day).
Musk knows better and should not do this. He puts at risk his mission to save the world and tests the good will and considerable financial outlay of loyal Tesla owners as well as investors.
His announcement via Twitter of taking Tesla private was ill advised; it showed bad judgment. With the recent settlement he dodged a bullet and avoided a prolonged, ugly investigation by the SEC. His accusations of pedophilia are mystifying. His flaunting of smoking pot was just stupid and unnecessary. His continuing to insult investors and the SEC is playing with fire.
I get how he feels. To some extent I share his skepticism of the capitalists and the traditional financial pundits. I definitely share his contempt for the short sellers who want Tesla to die. It’s not his fault that every time he discusses his plans in public the market goes crazy.
But shut up, Elon. Keep your head down and keep doing what you do best: building those awesome cars. I worry what might happen to Tesla without Elon Musk. So please, Elon, put a sock in it and behave yourself. You owe it to all the new loyal Tesla owners and future buyers, and you owe it to the world you hope to save.