Elon Musk, the charismatic CEO of Tesla, took his brand of electric cars mainstream when he launched the Model S, making the brand known for its charismatic boss, luxurious interiors and the first battery-powered car in its class.
The company has grown to more than 6,000 employees with offices in eight cities, including California, Texas, and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, it has been in expansion mode across the globe as the company builds two more large-scale Model 3 battery production facilities.
Elon Musk & Friends have recruited more than $500 million in funding for a mysterious new transportation startup called SpaceX. Stock in both companies, as you may have guessed, have taken off. It will be interesting to see where they land. — Doug Murphy (@DougMurphyPM) June 27, 2018
But there is one thing that has eluded Tesla for a long time, and that’s a more accessible version of a fully automated ride through traffic. Tesla’s first self-driving car prototype, named “Lyft” in an effort to underscore the company’s position as a “ride-sharing” model, was shelved after it got a failing grade from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The reason: Though the vehicle passed testing, it could not perform driving tasks that call for humans. If a driver had to override a driving command, there was a risk that someone would be killed. So Tesla made the decision to stop development of the car and let other companies develop self-driving cars without the human touch.
Elon Musk stepped away from his day-to-day leadership of Tesla in August to run SolarCity, a company he founded in 2006 but left in August. And once again, he didn’t count on giving his employees much reason to worry.
“Elon Musk’s vision is to force the entire transportation system to rely on tech which he invented,” Tim Worstall, an economics professor at the University of Manchester who wrote a 2012 paper arguing the rise of Silicon Valley innovation was creating an over-hyped environment in which real progress is being thwarted, told FoxNews.com. “This doesn’t make economic sense, but with a man in charge that’s exactly what the business world is programmed to do.”
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The open, decentralized system in which Musk operates—giving his employees as much autonomy as possible—is partially what encouraged employees to sign their names on an open letter to Musk in July. The message, signed by more than a thousand Tesla employees, urged the company to stop letting Musk push his vision for the future by writing checks that aren’t sustainable.
Elon has also been known to air some of his employees’ dirty laundry in public. At a recent shareholder meeting, Musk berated the team for taking his promise of a $5 billion investment at ESSENCE’s Essence Black Women in Technology Summit in April lightly, saying, “I just don’t like seeing people fly blind.”
When employees wrote a Facebook post about Musk’s egotistical behavior, he lit into them. He proceeded to call one employee a “moron” in private and then went on to go after another employee on Twitter. “At Tesla there are NO ‘minor’ mistakes to cause a madman CEO to lose his cool,” wrote one employee who opted to remain anonymous. “You’re fired.”
So much for a comfortable Tesla.