Elon Musk Takes Heat for Poorly Timed April Fools' Joke, Remaining Auto Pranks Boring

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
elon musk takes heat for poorly timed april fools joke remaining auto pranks boring

April Fools’ Day is a great holiday when you’re 12 years old but, as an adult, there are only so many people you can trick into drinking spoiled milk outside of your own family without getting into trouble. The world just doesn’t have the same level of patience for a matured prankster. Corporate foolery is even less palatable, usually because it’s far too tame to be genuinely entertaining, or results in some social blunder highlighting a genuine problem.

The automotive industry frequently engages in April Fools’ pranks, but this year was rather dull. Porsche’s phony Mission E tractor was cute but felt a little lazy and Honda UK’s chop-topped CR-V resulted in some members of the press requesting Honda actually built it — something none of us agree with, as that monstrosity would be a pillar of bad taste. The best of the bunch was probably McLaren’s weird take on promoting efficiency, in which the supercar maker hinted everyone will become a soulless robot. It wasn’t the best we’ve seen; still, the staff clearly enjoyed taking a playful shot at its more uptight rivals.

Then there was Tesla’s joke, which saw CEO Elon Musk issue a series of tweets about the company’s pretend bankruptcy. The timing on this was admittedly not great. Tesla had a really bad month involving a stock price attempting to bore its way to the center of the earth, the biggest recall in its history, another Model 3 production shortfall, and an Autopilot-related fatality in California.

Presumably, Musk was attempting to get out ahead of bad publicity surrounding Tesla’s impending doom — something nobody can yet assure — by making light of the situation. However, it might have been wiser for the automotive hype man to stay silent and enjoy a quiet holiday weekend with the family.

Had the company not been facing so many issues stacked one atop the other throughout March, the CEO’s comments would have been easier to take as a satirical jab at an overly critical media.

“Despite intense efforts to raise money, including a last-ditch mass sale of Easter Eggs, we are sad to report that Tesla has gone completely and totally bankrupt,” read Musk’s first tweet. “So bankrupt, you can’t believe it.”

There are many chapters of bankruptcy and, as critics so rightly pointed out, Tesla has them *all*, including Chapter 14 and a half (the worst one).

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 1, 2018

We cannot discern whether the brand’s 22-percent drop in stock value through March makes this prank absolutely hysterical or subtly tragic. It would be one thing if naysayer analysts continued to fault the company’s lack of profitability while share prices remained at an all-time high. But the company faces real problems right now and Musk is still telling jokes.

Tesla promised Model 3 production would reach 2,500 vehicles per week by the end of last month. But, according to an email sent to employees on Monday, it still isn’t there. While Bloomberg‘s “Tesla Tracker” still has the Model 3 at 1,190 cars a week, the automaker currently estimates a number just north of 2,000 by the end of this week. Projected production shortfalls, along with a fatal Model X crash in California, really hurt the company’s incredibly important stock valuation.

In his final April Fool’s tweet, Musk posted a photo of himself passed out against the side of a Tesla, holding a cardboard sign with the word “bankwupt” written on it. “Elon was found passed out against a Tesla Model 3, surrounded by ‘Teslaquilla’ bottles, the tracks of dried tears still visible on his cheeks,” read the last posting. “This is not a forward-looking statement, because, obviously, what’s the point? Happy New Month!”

According to Bloomberg, Moody’s Analytics Investors Service cut Tesla’s credit status from B3 from B2 and changed its outlook from stable to negative last week. It also suggested the company might need raise more than $2 billion very soon. S&P also has a negative outlook on the company right now, but has not given it the dreaded triple-C rating.

While Tesla could have taken a page from Honda and Porsche by promoting an undesirable model that will never reach production, those types of April Fools’ pranks are almost painfully derivative at this point — but not entirely unwelcome when done well. But how often does an automaker enact ultra-black self-deprecating humor? We say let Elon travel down this comedic rabbit hole as far as he wants. It’s far too interesting not to follow him.

[Image: Elon Musk/ Twitter]

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2 of 27 comments
  • DEVILLE88 DEVILLE88 on Apr 03, 2018

    Its hard to admire and respect a guy who names his company after one of the most important men the human race has ever seen. and he readily admits he likes and admires Thomas Edison far more. a man who did not invent the light bulb, killed animals out of jealousy and desperation to prove his DC current was better than Nikola tesla,invented the electric chair and basically your thieving lying dishonest human being.

  • John Horner John Horner on Apr 03, 2018

    The Porsche E-tractor announcement looks like the kind of thing Tesla would actually put out :). A decade from now Tesla's Bankwupt sign will be a sought after collectible. Of course Elon identifies with Edison more than he does with Tesla. Edison was a promoter first and foremost and had much in common with PT Barnum. Tesla was an actual genius.

  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.
  • AMcA The '70 Continentals and Town Cars may have been cousins to the standard body Fords and Mercurys, they didn't have to be disguised, because they had unique, unbelievably huge bodies of their own. Looking at the new 1970 interior, I'd say it was also a cost savings in sewing the seat. Button tufted panels like the 1969 interior had require a lot of sewing and tufting work. The 1970 interior is mostly surface sewing on a single sheet of upholstery instead of laboriously assembled smaller pieces. FINALLY: do I remember correctly that the shag carpet shown under these cars was a Photoshop? They didn't really go so peak '70s as to photograph cars on shag carpets, did they?
  • Inside Looking Out Toyota makes mass market cars. Their statement means that EVs are not mass market yet. But then Tesla managed to make mass market car - Mode; 3. Where I live in CA there are more Tesla Model 3s on streets than Corollas.
  • Ltcmgm78 A lot of dirt must turn before there's an EV in every driveway. There must be a national infrastructure plan written by other than politicians chasing votes. There must be reliable batteries that hopefully aren't sourced from strategic rivals. There must be a way to charge a lot of EVs. Toyota is wisely holding their water. There is a danger in urging unplanned and hasty moves away from ICE vehicles. Do we want to listen to unending speeches every election cycle that we are closer than we have ever been to 100% electrification and that voting for certain folks will make it happen faster? Picture every car in your town suddenly becoming all electric and a third of them need a charge or the driver will be late for work. This will take a lot of time and money.
  • Kendahl One thing I've learned is that cars I buy for local errands tend to be taken on 1,000 mile trips, too. We have a 5-speed Focus SE that has gone on longer trips than I ever expected. It has served us well although, if I had it to do over again, I would have bought an ST. At the time of purchase, we didn't plan to move from 1,000 feet elevation to 6,500. The SE is still adequate but the ST's turbo and extra power would have been welcome.