Musk update

The Wall Street Journal claims that, according to sources, Elon Musk flipped out when safety sensors automatically halted the assembly line at the Tesla factory in California, and “began head-butting the front end of a car” to prove that the safety measures were unnecessary. He then apparently fired a senior engineering manager involved with the system.

The takeaway here is that Musk is a nutjob, perhaps in the throes of an Ambien-fueled psychotic episode. What sane individual head-butts cars? But the verb choice may be misleading. As the Journal notes later on in the piece: “Tesla said Mr. Musk, in a safety hat, had tapped, not headbutted, the car on the assembly line that day, and that the system was adjusted without jeopardizing safety.” Of course, “Musk tapped the car on the assembly line with his helmeted head” would make for a much weaker hook.

Journalistic hyperbole aside, it does seem that Musk is in over his head (heh), and while I can’t claim to understand what is going on at Tesla, it does not seem good:

The executive team at Tesla that Mr. Musk once relied upon for information is depleted. More than 50 vice presidents or higher have left the company in the past two years.

Mr. Musk hasn’t so far found a second-in-command with the expertise or vision that appeals to him, people familiar with his thinking said.

Mr. Musk had long told his executives he didn’t want to be CEO and planned to serve only as long as it took to bring Tesla up to speed, leaving him to focus on product development, people familiar with his comments said. Aides debated who would take his place: Doug Field, the engineering chief, or Jon McNeill, the sales chief.

Both men left Tesla this year, and Mr. Musk assumed their roles instead of hiring replacements. Tesla said neither man was being groomed for CEO.

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