Opinion: The Rest of the World is Finding Out What The Auto World Already Knew About Elon Musk
Ever since Tesla boss Elon Musk took over Twitter, he's found himself mired in controversy, often of his own making.
From mass layoffs to the controversial reinstatement of accounts that peddle hatred to the destruction of the blue-checkmark verification system, it's been an endless stream of hullabaloo. It's even caused major advertisers to flee.
And just about every automotive journalist, automotive enthusiast, and avid reader of sites like this one saw it coming.
Whether one likes Elon or not, there is one incontrovertible fact -- controversy follows the man. Tesla has been fairly successful as a brand, but Musk's habit of gaining attention for the wrong reasons has often overshadowed the company.
The list of controversies involving Musk and his time leading Tesla is so long that it has its own Wikipedia page. I'll hit some highlights: Accusations of racism in the plants, Covid misinformation, saying his cars have full-self driving capability when they do not, quality and safety issues, an inability to deliver on the promise of the Cybertruck ... I could go on. But then we'd be here all day.
Now Musk is in charge of what's probably the most influential social-media platform (especially among politicians, pundits, and media) and he's in the news almost every day for some controversial decision.
Some folks outside the auto industry saw this coming -- especially if they'd followed Elon's tweets over the past two-three years. But others seem shocked. I think that's because the automotive industry sometimes doesn't get the full attention of the mainstream media. I suspect some folks had in their mind a vision of Musk as a controversial but innovative visionary -- a man who sometimes made mistakes and deserved some of the criticism he got, but also was occasionally unfairly criticized for shaking up staid industries. Instead, the truth is being revealed -- Musk may be smart, but he's also stubborn, thin-skinned, and seemingly unable to let underlings who actually understand how social media works run things.
Earlier this year, I had an off-record conversation with a former Tesla employee who told me that Musk would fire people on the spot if they pushed back on him. Or if he deemed a failure their fault, even if it was really no one's fault. That doesn't seem like a smart way to run a business -- any good manager knows that sometimes employees need to push back on bad ideas before poor decisions are made. If you've followed what's happening at Twitter, it's clear Musk doesn't seem to understand that.
I've tried during this post not to opine on any one of the Twitter controversies -- this isn't the place for that. I just want to point out that those of us who have covered the man and Tesla knew that Musk wouldn't likely just be hands-off. We knew he'd be controversial and clumsy in how he managed the company.
Maybe all the pundits who were curious how Musk would handle his ownership of Twitter should've spent some time reading our archives, or a former M.E.'s book about Tesla.
Or maybe Elon should learn to grow as an executive. Based on the past 15 years, however, I wouldn't bet on it.
[Image: Koshiro K/Shutterstock.com]
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Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.
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