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]
Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.
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