By on April 2, 2018

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.”

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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27 Comments on “Elon Musk Takes Heat for Poorly Timed April Fools’ Joke, Remaining Auto Pranks Boring...”


  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Yeah, the fanbois have got to be thrilled they sent a grand to this clown.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Not auto related, but my favorite corporate April Fool’s joke of all time would have to be Google choosing to announce GMail on April 1st, leading to a lot more attention than it would have gotten on any other day.

    Generating all sorts of free publicity via article speculating if the announcement was real or not (and it turning out to be real) was a stroke of genius. Plenty of the computer press got it wrong, and those that did almost invariably published a follow-up article.

    (At the time, a 1GB mailbox sounded ALMOST (but not quite) impossibly generous.)

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Wasn’t that when you had to be invited to join, by another user? That’s how I got on GMail. At the time, a 1Gb mailbox was unheard-of, especially a free 1Gb mailbox.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Hasn’t announcing an undesirable model that will never reach production been just a bit overplayed by Tesla?

  • avatar
    Asdf

    The specifications of Tesla’s vehicles read like a particularly bad April Fools’ joke, with their extremely long charging times and their extortionate prices. And stories of real people buying these utterly crappy and inherently defective vehicles also sound like April Fools’ jokes.

    Unfortunately, and incredibly, the ridiculously bad specifications are authentic, and those people buying the vehicles are themselves fools.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      So playing this April Fool’s joke was great! Nothing like sowing a little insecurity on Electric Avenue.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        The workforce needs to vote in the UAW quickly so they can get a better deal at the bk court.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          That may happen at the old NUMMI plant before it does anywhere else.

          President Trump knows how to play Big Labor. They put him in office. No two ways about it.

          We’ll see a lot more union-action on the labor front as more and more jobs become available.

          It’s all going to be about re-election. coupled with the shortage of qualified workers in America.

          I believe unions will be tasked to set up training programs to get workers up to speed to fill all those high paying jobs.

          Not new. It’s been done before. Usually with the help of Community Colleges, Vocational Schools, and the Union Job Bank.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @asdf: We spend less time charging our vehicles than you spend posting anti-tesla propaganda.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      The impacts of non-Tesla vehicles read like a particularly bad reality, with their contributions to asthma, heart failure, and cancer. Stories of real people buying these inherently defective vehicles sound like April Fools’ jokes.

      Unfortunately and incredibly, the ridiculously bad health impacts are authentic, and people defending the vehicles are themselves fools.

      See what I did there, Asdf? Jesus, get a new violin, yours plays only one note.

      • 0 avatar
        Asdf

        Sure, I see what you did there, HotPotato, with your clumsy and cringe-worthy attempt at derision and ridicule. But those kind of antics are to be expected from starry-eyed EV fanbois like yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      At least you weren’t explicit this time about the “inherent defect” you are talking about being the fact that it cannot be connected directly to the output of a small power plant. Was it because we’ve made fun of you about it too many times?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’m still sticking with my prediction that Musk will be out of the car business by the end of 2020, and maybe sooner.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I saw my first Bolt the other day, being driven by an elderly woman, with her husband (I assume) riding shotgun. Not a bad looking car.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    So what will the next exciting product roll-out be? Cruise ship, motorcycle, snow machine, freight locomotive?

  • avatar
    Ralahamy

    Elon Musk’s levity is like whistling past the cemetery. Bankruptcy is weighing on him more than he likes to show.

  • avatar
    Ralahamy

    Elon Musk’s levity is like whistling past the cemetery. Bankruptcy is weighing on him more than he likes to show.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    Matt Dude, seriously weigh yourself and get some sleep. Don’t let concern for Tesla’s financial health ruin your own.

  • avatar
    geo

    His neck beard is as inappropriate as his unfunny April Fool’s joke.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    I’ll never understand the level of glee some people seem to attain when it comes to anything negative regarding Tesla. Then again , I Am equally baffled by those who Think Donald Trump actually has some secret talent that is going to “Make America a Great.” No , I do not own a Tesla and most likely never will. When you put any real thought into what it would take to build a competitive Auto manufacturer from scratch , (and these nay-sayers really don’t) there is no investment model to suggest it can be done. None. Yet , Musk , a man of some intellengence and yes , ego , decided to give it a go. No one else has risked this amount of time and money and reputation it what many experts say can’t be done. Stop it. Let history take it’s course.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    I could see Elio Motors pulling the same April Fools Day stunt….oh wait….they have no money…..

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    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.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    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.

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