Op-Ed: It’s Time To Fire Elon Musk
I’m a strong proponent of Tesla. I co-own a Model Y, and I have a small portfolio of Tesla stock. I spread the word about reliability of the Supercharger network, the feelings of safety I get when I drive the Tesla, and the Y’s extensive perks. I admit it: I have drunk the Tesla Kool-Aid. But what I can no longer do is endorse Elon Musk as CEO. His once-strong vision for the company has deteriorated into a series of fantasy scenarios and partially completed plans. Yes, Musk is brilliant. His legacy is set — he nearly single-handedly ushered in the era of transportation electrification. But he is no longer functioning adequately in the capacity needed as head of Tesla. It’s time to fire Elon Musk.
Stating such a position openly is risky for me, I know. Since Musk purchased Twitter, free speech has become an Orwellian term, a means of promoting Musk’s neoliberal worldview. While I’m not a regular Twitter user, I do use it for this writing gig, and I apparently could become the object of shadow banning by speaking out against Musk.
But it’s got to be said — it’s time to fire Elon Musk as Tesla CEO.
I realize that taking this position may force oppositionists to scramble out of the proverbial woodwork; I could become the object of great antipathy and trolling.
Then again, I may not be alone in my vocal anti-Musk attitude.
Reputation hits are hard to reverse: An Axios Harris poll released this week says Tesla has fallen precipitously in reputation from 11th in 2022 to 62nd place this year, with a 74.3 RQ (79.5 in 2022). It seems people in the US have grown “wary and weary of big ideas and powerful moguls who they feel have overpromised and underdelivered.” They say that Musk’s influence at Twitter has displaced Rupert Murdoch and Fox News as the king of conservative media in recent weeks.
If Twitter has, indeed, become the center of media gravity for the Republican Party just as the 2024 election heats up, then progressives may find themselves becoming even more disillusioned with the Technoking. Musk has been critical of the Biden administration for its proposals to tax billionaires and give more tax incentives to union-made EVs. Maybe it’s time for some progressives to look at a Kia EV6 instead of a Model Y….
Autopilot errors: Musk has focused incessantly on the company’s self-driving capacity, and that single-mindedness has been a detriment to the company. Musk’s focus on Autopilot takes him away from other endeavors that could be more productive for Tesla. In February, regulators required Tesla to recall (read: send over-the-air updates) to more than 362,000 US vehicles to address its Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta software. The regulators said that the driver assistance system did not adequately adhere to traffic safety laws and could cause crashes.
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg isn’t convinced that Autopilot is correctly named or functioning. “There is a real concern that’s not limited to the technology itself but the interaction between the technology and the driver,” Buttigieg told reporters this week when asked about the Tesla Autopilot probe.
Introduce more models with greater frequency: In March, I wrote about 12 reasons why Tesla should offer a lower price vehicle. Among them was appealing to new audiences, keeping current with other automakers (who tend to release new models constantly), boosting Tesla stock value, bringing youth climate activists into the fold, and enhancing EV equity across demographic groups.
Cybertruck — when? Steve Hanley’s CleanTechnica April Fool’s Day parody, “Elon Musk: Tesla Cybertruck Is Dead, $20,000 City Car Is Coming” got the most hits of any of our articles this quarter. Why? People are sick of waiting — they want answers — and they also want the release of the “Model C.” They want to feel as if the Tesla brand they love is new and fresh and constantly ahead of the competition. Right now, with the Model Y release more than 4 years ago and the Roadster refresh yet to be formalized, all Tesla fans can do is wait. And wait some more. Maybe a new CEO would appreciate consumer delight when a new model is released….
It’s Elon’s antics and antipathy that are causes for concern: He’s interjected himself into politics (“Give people their freedom back!” he exclaimed as he objected to the Covid mask mandate), resorted to hyperbole (“A Tesla with 8 cameras, radar, sonar, & always being alert can definitely be superhuman,” he insisted), or insulted workers (he called remote work “morally wrong” and said that the “laptop classes are living in la-la land”). It’s time for the Tesla CEO to compost himself like an adult.
The internal influence of a new CEO: Robyn Denholm is little more than an Elon mouthpiece as board chair. Straubel hasn’t been removed long enough from the Tesla board for his board reinstatement to become objective. Tom Zhu could have a bigger North American influence — that is, if Tesla does fire Elon Musk and a new CEO is hired.
A new CEO would be able to function as a mentor to the other board members, helping to guide them in directions that are a bit more short-term risk aware as well as setting a trajectory that applies resources today to feasible 3- and 5-year goals.
Right-wing favoritism, trouble brewing with Tesla fanboys and fangirls: Politico called Musk “polarizing” and “a controversial and outspoken figure” as they anticipated Musk’s center stage participation at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential bid announcement. Twitter’s press team sent an automated reply with a poop emoji in response to a Politico query on the event.
Republican strategist Rob Stutzman wonders why DeSantis decided to have Musk appear with him in a high-stakes event like the 2024 presidential bid announcement, as its always uncertain “what comes out of his mouth.”
Is Tesla’s decision to advertise borne out of appealing to fans? Concurrent with the May 2023 Annual Shareholder Meeting, Musk revealed, “We’ll try out a little advertising and see how it goes.” Musk said he envisioned advertising that emphasized the features, safety, and affordability of Tesla vehicles, yet acknowledged he did not yet have a “fully formed strategy” for Tesla advertising.
A 2-minute video, posted on the Twitter account for Tesla Asia, is a driver testimonial from a mother of two young children in Singapore. She is delighted to share why she loves her Tesla Model 3, pointing out the design and environmentally friendly features of the all-electric sedan, which costs about $47,000. “The day-to-day drive is one of the smoothest and safest,” she says, noting her approval of the “autosteer” feature which offers her assistance to stay in her lane after a long day of work and driving.
This may be the start of a wonderful relationship — not exactly traditional advertising like your father watched on television, a lot more like a CEO who knows he’s on the edge of accepted decorum and reads the winds of change. Francine McKenna, writing a TIME magazine “Ideas” piece, argues that the SEC should have also barred Musk from serving as an officer or director of any public company long before he came to Twitter. Maybe Musk picked up the issue of TIME recently….
Tesla fans love the brand: Let it be said that, yes, Tesla has the strongest brand loyalty of any automakers, according to an investment note which lists Tesla with a 67% favorable rating. Citi analyst Itay Michaeli wrote in a recent communication to clients that Tesla’s brand loyalty continues to be strong, according to quarterly S&P Global data and as detailed in a report from Barron’s. We love Tesla! The data indicate that Tesla’s brand continues to snatch market share from other automakers.
To fire Elon Musk would be tumultuous and really invigorating for the brand at the same time. It must be done.
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