Asked for comment by The Washington Post on a profile that quoted various critics slamming him for being stretched too thin, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and Space X, fired back at the Post and ostensibly its owner Jeff Bezos, snapping, “Give my regards to your puppet master.”
The Post’s article starts by noting Musk’s exhausting schedule of commuting from his home in southern California, the Tesla plant in northern California, a new factory in Austin, Texas, and SpaceX’s launch facility on Texas’ Gulf Coast. Then the Post quotes unnamed “critics” who assert that Musk’s focus on Space X and other ventures has permitted the quality of Tesla to “fall victim.”
“In interviews with a dozen current and former Tesla employees, investors and analysts, critics pointed to a series of questionable business moves, and even outright missteps by Tesla, as a potential symptom of the outside demands on Musk,” The Post states. “They described a company where Musk is less present and increasingly isolated, where subordinates are reluctant to question the CEO’s vision, and where the de facto position entails eschewing market research. It’s a top-down, shoot-by-the-hip ethos directed by Musk.”
The Post notes, “In response to emails seeking comment, Musk replied only: ‘Give my regards to your puppet master.’”
Tesla submitted a regulatory filing in February stating, “We are highly dependent on the services of Elon Musk, our Chief Executive Officer and largest stockholder. Although Mr. Musk spends significant time with Tesla and is highly active in our management, he does not devote his full time and attention to Tesla.”
Ed Niedermeyer, author of “Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors,” told The Post, “There isn’t a culture at Tesla really other than ‘let’s do what Elon wants to do.’”
The Post terms Musk’s critical comments of California’s harsh lockdowns last April a “public meltdown.” Musk said at the time, “To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic — this is not freedom.”
The Post offers its criticisms of recent Tesla forays:
Tesla’s hotly anticipated Model Y crossover, released in 2020, has surprisingly struggled, prompting the company to yank some variations from the lineup and cut the price by up to $3,000 at a time. Its refreshed Model S includes a controversial half-moon “Yoke” style steering wheel which aims to automate turn signals and gear selections, something likely to be scrutinized by regulators.
The Model Y faced quality control concerns after its launch early last year, including reports that the roof of a brand new vehicle blew off, and a back seat was not attached. Some analysts attributed poor build quality to the strain of producing cars during the pandemic.
Two more quotes from the Post: Jennifer Chatman, a management professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, saying, “We’re seeing this with Elon Musk: a lack of impulse control.” An employee of Musk’s: “He knows whatever he says, people do and he’s taking advantage of it,” adding that he warned a co-worker that Musk “doesn’t care about you; he’ll ruin you.”