Opinion: The Rest of the World is Finding Out What The Auto World Already Knew About Elon Musk

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

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
Tim Healey

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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4 of 57 comments
  • John John on Dec 22, 2022

    Unfair Attack on Elon. To me he is my Michael Jordan. The only person on the planet that is doing something about climate change. He provided internet to many who otherwise would not be able to. Elon is also doing something with Neurolink that will help many people with various disabilities.

    • See 1 previous
    • Joh65690876 Joh65690876 on Jan 14, 2023

      Genius = Insanity…. Time will tell

  • John John on Dec 22, 2022

    You people cry about the so called "Climate Change", then as your Messiah, he delivered, although negligible he is the only person that has made a measurable difference. Now, to the profit, what world do you live in? It's always about the money. To be in a position to buy an Itilian giga press which costs billions, he had to make billions. Before Starlink, it cost others $1.5 billion to get a satellite in space that projected internet with a 5-second delay. Elon puts internet satellites in orbit for $150K. He offered Ukraine internet during Russian War. Offered internet to 3rd world countries. His Boring tunnels for EV cars cost him one 10th and can do one mile per month. Neuralink will help humanity. His cell phone is going to Kill the super RICH IPhone (hypocrite) that is the greediest company. Bet you have an IPhone.

  • CEastwood If it wasn't for the senior property tax freeze in NJ I might complain about this raising my property taxes since most of that tax goes to the schools . I'm not totally against EVs , but since I don't drive huge miles and like to maintain my own vehicles they are not practical especially since I keep a new vehicle long term and nobody has of yet run into the cost of replacing the battery on an EV .
  • Aquaticko Problem with PHEV is that, like EVs, they still require a behavioral change over ICE/HEV cars to be worth their expense and abate emissions (whichever is your goal). Studies in the past have shown that a lot of PHEV drivers don't regularly plug-in, meaning they're just less-efficient HEVs.I'm left to wonder how big a battery a regular HEV could have without needing to be a PHEV.
  • El scotto ooops, the third shot is at the gas pump voice-over saying "Yep, you can refill whenever you want."
  • El scotto The opening shot of the ad: Show a PHEV running a quarter mile, in about seven seconds and silently with the voice-over saying "What you want to do, all on electrons"; segue to bumper-to-bumper traffic and the voice-over saying "What you really do; all on electrons for your first 80 miles".
  • FreedMike OK, as mentioned before, I tried out a PHEV today - a Mazda CX-90. And you know what? It's DAMN nice. It's no rocket, but it's suitably quick. It has enough power to feel effortlessly quick. Handling is surprisingly good - I wasn't able to really go for it with a salesman in the car, and obviously it's no match for my GLI, but that big girl likes to corner. The interior is posh. Overall, the experience is somewhat like driving a less-powerful Audi A6 - it's not aggressive, but it's got that "hammer in a velvet glove" thing going on. It's a big, fast, smooth and efficient car. And Mazda is doing some serious dealing on this car right now. Color me impressed. Might I end up eating my own anti-CUV words?