Tesla Death Watch 9: A Confederacy of Dunces

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
tesla death watch 9 a confederacy of dunces

Behind every flailing/failing company is a bunch of clueless, warring egomaniacs. Students of mismanagement mishegos have a new case study to contemplate, thanks to a portrait of the aspiring electric vehicle maker in Fortune magazine. There's plenty of SNAFU granularity to consider, but the main theme is that Tesla founder Martin Eberhard is an overwhelmed Wozniak to Elon Musk's OCD Jobs. In other words, it's a simple case of the blind leading the lame. Or is that the other way around? Anyway, there are some insanely great quotes. "Musk has kept silent until now about what happened [to Martin Eberhard's crashed Roadster]. 'I was too busy trying to fix the fucking mess he left. I haven't had time to tell my story… I will say, I have never met someone who is as capable of creating such a disinformation campaign as Martin Eberhard.'" And "When an early member of the marketing team suggested putting solar panels on the roof of Tesla's new headquarters in San Carlos, Calif., Eberhard's response was, 'Why the fuck would we do that?'" And "Musk ordered the engineers to lower the doorsill two inches, thereby losing much of the cost savings that come from using a crash-tested off-the-rack chassis. 'Have you tried getting out of an Elise?' asks Musk. 'It's like you have to be a contortionist.'" There's SO much more. Suffice it to say, we learn that seven Roadsters have been completed; each cost Tesla more to build than they [in theory] make. Each will have to have its transmission replaced. The Tesla Death Watch continues.

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4 of 22 comments
  • Campisi Campisi on Jul 11, 2008

    For God's sake, how hard can it be to make what is essentially a giant remote-controlled car without a remote?

  • Nonce Nonce on Jul 11, 2008

    For people who have never started their own company, I'm sure this sounds like chaos. They imagine that if they were ever to form a company, everything would be roses, and only perfectly rational people would be involved, and everyone's jobs would be perfectly aligned with their skills. Everything would be perfectly planned and only prudent risks would be taken. In reality, small companies are chaos. You go to war with the employees you have, not the employees you wish you have. People that join small companies have hopes and dreams of their own that might not align exactly with yours. Even if it were possible to rationally determine the best person for the job, which it isn't, you don't have the ability to do that. The whole Fortune article sounds exactly like any new company. And they've switched to doing what they have to do to get things shipped.

  • M_o_s M_o_s on Jul 13, 2008

    What is all this nonsense about saving cost using a crash-tested off-the-rack chassis? They had to design a new chassis anyway (unless they wanted to somehow mount their battery to the Elise engine mounts), and even had they somehow shoehorned a new car into an old chassis, they'd have had to re-crash-test the car again anyway too. Even small things like changing the structure of the dash can trigger a new crash test -- to say nothing of a new powertrain.