The Man In The Arena

It’s an unpleasant thing to say, but it’s true: This world is divided into those who do and those who watch. Which is not to say that most of us don’t wind up falling into both of those categories depending on the situation: even Presidents have favorite television shows, and Gore Vidal apparently laid off the criticism long enough to clean his house from time to time. In general, however, it is usually possible to judge someone’s credibility, legitimacy, and even character by how much time they spend doing as opposed to watching.

Elon Musk spends most of his time doing. A simple list of his favorite side gigs make you wonder where he finds the time: flamethrowers, massive underground tunnels, a breathtakingly viable private space program with VTOL rockets. And then there’s the matter of his day job, which involves nothing more than the creation of the first viable large-scale independent American automobile company since, oh, the Second World War or thereabouts. You can call him a Bond villain, which is the proverbial praising with a faint damn, or you can call him a megalomaniac, which is the typical bomb lobbed at the confidently successful by the socially-awkward unaccomplished. But you cannot deny that he is out there Doing. Big. Things.

A hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago, Elon’s innovations and ideas would have spawned a flood of strong-willed competitors; look how many American men took Henry Ford’s success as both a personal insult and a spur to attempt great things of their own. In this modern, sickly, navel-gazing age, however, what’s happened instead is that a million mewling nonentities have re-imagined their pathetic lives as wriggling suckerfish clinging to the Great White Musk Shark, hungrily scarfing up bits of waste and detritus as they congratulate themselves for adding parasitic drag to the whole enterprise.


The cottage industry of Tesla critics labors mightily and occasionally produces a mouse. More often, however, they just produce “thinkpieces” and “hot takes” and Twitter snark, a bunch of sound and fury signifying absolutely nada. You can safely ignore everything they say. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of their idiocy is such that legitimate criticisms of Tesla and its product are often rendered inaudible by contrast.

Over the past week, Musk has indulged himself in a bit of a rant regarding the media, its role with regards to Tesla, and the general lack of esteem in which the American public holds the press nowadays. I don’t blame him. It can’t be easy to have created an electric-car company from scratch and developed the only internationally-viable American luxury automotive brand only to have a bunch of liberal-arts graduates babbling night and day about his supposed transgressions. I can imagine him staring at an RSS feed’s worth of vitriol and asking himself: “If what I’m doing is so bad, so fraudulent, so incompetent, why doesn’t anybody else do any better?” I’m reminded of Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, who once responded to a particularly angry critic with something along the lines of, “If you don’t like what I’m doing, you’re free to create your own completely free operating system; every time I’ve done that, it has worked for me.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Musk, his attempts to engage with the Twitterati have worked out more or less along the same lines as the proverbial wrestling with a pig: you both get muddy, and only the pig enjoys it. We used to think that an infinite number of monkeys on keyboards would produce the works of Shakespeare, but thanks to Twitter we know that we only get the blurst of times. Just as a dozen hyenas can kill a lion, even a certified genius will eventually find himself inadequate to fight off an endless number of part-time service-industry employees who spend the rest of their lives yammering about the flaws of other people.

Elon, and Tesla, should not be exempt from criticism. But the noise is drowning out the signal. So I’ve made a personal choice. I’m no longer paying any attention to any Tesla-related media that doesn’t contain measured analysis from qualified personnel. If you want to show me the documented flaws in a wiring harness, or discuss the measured reduction of a battery pack’s capacity, I’ll listen. If you have expertise in factory safety and you can show what Tesla could do better, I’m all ears. If you are a trained, competition-experienced driver who wants to comment on the Model 3’s dynamic flaws, I’ll watch your YouTube video when I have time to do so.

On the other hand, if you’ve never worked in the auto business and you’ve never run a factory and you’ve never done so much as program an Arduino to make an LED blink, I’m going to mute you and your ignorance when it comes to Tesla. I’ll put my faith in Elon instead. He built a car; you can’t get through 140 characters without a misspelling. He made a rocket land on a barge; you haven’t cleaned your room this year. He dates supermodels; you’re parroting feminist doctrine in your Bumble profile. This is not a difficult choice to make.

Many years ago, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech to the Europeans which we primarily remember for a single paragraph. It has been misquoted and misused and even unequally yoked to a embarrassing advertising campaign for some subpar luxury cars, but I’m going to reproduce it in full because I think it applies more to Elon Musk than it does to almost anybody else. Godspeed, Sir, and good luck.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

70 Replies to “The Man In The Arena”

  1. S2k Chris

    Hear hear. Whatever you think of the man, he’s made electric cars cool, and he’s taking the wood to the non-American companies in the luxury car segment. Maybe nerds can point out where a Leaf or a Bolt is technically superior in some area or other, but no one WANTS a Leaf or Bolt, people WANT a Tesla, and that means something pretty substantial.

    Reply
  2. Widgetsltd

    Coincidentally, I was behind a new Model 3 in traffic just a few minutes ago, and I wondered if the car could possibly have as as many flaws as it’s most ardent critics claim. It looked pretty good to me.

    Reply
  3. Widgetsltd

    I should also point out that my wife LOVES her Chevy Bolt. She’s been driving it for a little more than a year and 21,000 miles. She’s never driven a Tesla, though, so I can’t say whether she might like a Model 3 more.

    Reply
    • Ben Johnson

      I will say this about the Model 3 – it’s not designed with planned stylistic obsolescence in mind.

      My dumb observations and random bleating:

      * Tesla may be the revenge of modernized mass production over pure lean production
      * Tesla has a meaningful competitive advantage because no dealers. Think of your experience in an Apple Store vs Best Buy.
      * Tesla autopilot scares the crap out of me – I’d love it dialed down to an automated driver assist however.

      I find Elon someone worthy of emulating the more noble parts of – for me, the caveat is that I couldn’t make the complete trade of business over family he has.

      Reply
  4. Brawnychicken

    As someone who in fact owns a (very tiny) factory in the USA I can attest that building a Tesla is an amazing achievement. (wait, here it comes)-my only gripe is the enormous amount of taxpayer subsidies he has lobbied for, and received, to make it happen. That’s it. I like my gas engines, and maybe I’d love driving a Tesla, I don’t know. I have issues with various government entities giving special tax breaks to rich people for buying them and special tax breaks to companies in sexy industries like his.

    Reply
    • S2k Chris

      As a former worker in the oil and gas sector, you have to remember that the explicit tax breaks given to Tesla and others in the renewable space are peanuts compared to what we spend to keep oil affordable. If you look at tax breaks as investment rather than handouts, there are few better places to invest than contributing towards our energy independence. So I don’t hate the tax breaks. On the rich people vs poor people, I think that’s where Elon’s genius came through. He realized there’s no money in trying to make a better electric shitbox for the masses. He made electrics aspirational by setting them up as a premium product and gradually moving downmarket as economies of scale worked in his favor and tech marched forwards. Compare that with everyone else’s strategy and it’s a huge winner.

      Reply
  5. John

    Wow. Appreciate your protocol for examining criticism and praise of Tesla Motors Inc., or any other subject for that matter. Agree.

    I’m going to spend part of today thinking about how long it would have taken me to write this sentence:
    “In this modern, sickly, navel-gazing age, however, what’s happened instead is that a million mewling nonentities have re-imagined their pathetic lives as wriggling suckerfish clinging to the Great White Musk Shark, hungrily scarfing up bits of waste and detritus as they congratulate themselves for adding parasitic drag to the whole enterprise.”

    Reply
  6. Will

    That’s because everything is so regulated, that it’s a billionaire to do things. Henry Ford had competitors because no one said a car had to be a certain way. We forget that our policy of only large companies kills competiton, which is why big companies love regulations. It’s a feat, but he only invests, he doesn’t actually do the doing.

    Reply
    • Will

      It takes a billionaire to do things. The capital required to start a business a huge unless it’s a software company and it’s essentially a buggy mess to begin with.

      Reply
        • Ben Johnson

          ^this

          One of my customers is in his late 70’s and will bail out of whatever he’s doing to go mow the grass on Friday at 3pm.

          Because that’s the time to go mow the grass. I found this out during a rather important meeting I was having with him. I helped him edge and didn’t charge him. I got the project.

          His construction company is now worth many millions and he started business in his 40’s after hopping the fence from Mexico with his small children in tow. Started by weeding flowerbeds for change and then bought a lawn mower.

          Reply
          • Will

            That’s not what I’m referring to, so your “this” is wrong. Try starting a car, motorcycle or any manufacturing business and the bill won’t be $99.

        • Will

          Not possible. The incorporation fees alone are more than that. Plus, if you want to start a manufacturing business of automobiles and other “mobility” products, far more than that. That’s a simple answer that is extremely incorrect.

          Reply
          • Ben Johnson

            If I remember correctly, didn’t Musk self start here in the USA? I’d be curious to know differently.

            I get where you’re coming from – Bill Gates rise to money isn’t that exciting – he started with a lot. But you’re also cutting of your own ability to grow if you immoderately count yourself out just because you don’t have scratch.

          • Will

            My point was that it was easy to start a software company, much like it was easy to start an automobile company back in the early 1900s; there’s no regulation to software. As someone who’s started both a products and software business, the software company was significantly cheaper. But since we’re talking about Musk, how many billions has he spend and the company isn’t even profitable. It’s easy to say do, but the wide ranging of government regulations (not mowing lawns) makes it harder, which is why you see so few manufacturing, medicine and other complicated business as start-ups.

    • JustPassinThru

      IMHO, comparisons to Henry Ford do not work. Ford did it himself, with a limited number of investor-partners. And he did it after experiencing failure twice before; and having his company taken away in liquidation proceedings and essentially given to another group. That company became Cadillac.

      Ford learned to swim, in peril of sinking, on his own wits. Musk, is what used to be called a “Crony Capitalist” – his genius lies not in product design, not in manufacturing process; but in establishing networks in government and a path to the well of public monies.

      And in an earlier time – meaning just ten years ago – such a company would never have existed. Tesla has never been profitable and in the opinion of many financial analysts, can never be profitable. Tesla has its MarketCap price because, with today’s “Financialized” (manipulated) markets of Zero interest and Quantitative Easing (digital money-creation, $1T per year)…where there is NO yield on “safe” investments like Treasury bills; where the stock markets are rising because banks, freed from Glass-Steagall, can put money directly into stocks – and DO, pouring their Zero-Interest Fed loans into the Dow-indexed funds…

      …in such a world, even stocks like Snap and Theranos and, yes, Tesla, rise and rise. And crony-corporatists like Musk laugh all the way to the counting-house.

      Henry Ford would have been disgusted.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        To be fair, Henry Ford was not competing directly with Chinese private-public partnerships with access to effectively unlimited cash and the ability to bend the regulations as they see fit.

        Reply
        • Will

          Yeah and labor laws were not existent. Impossible to be that cheap or just beat your labor up if they want more pay.

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            You are aware of the fact that Henry Ford increased pay to $5/day long before labor laws or the UAW existed, aren’t you?

          • Will

            I was aware Ronnie, but that was because he was facing stiff competition for workers (a la silicon valley today) and there was no federal or state mandated minimum. Plus he had the whole spying operation going, so there’s that. Conditions in a 1914 factory are different and more dangerous then they are today. He didn’t start out giving them $5 a day. Jack’s speaking about the “doing” part and starting an automobile company today is far harder and more capital intensive than it was in 1906. It ain’t that easy.

          • Athos

            Henry raised the salaries in part to solve high operator turnover. It actually solved several HR issues at the time. Absenteeism being another.

        • JustPassinThru

          And Chinese products reflect that. The products that come out of those crony-corporate arrangements, with the government as a silent-but-senior partner…are typically shoddy and short-lived. And for a reason which is obvious, when you consider it: Chinese products are designed to SELL, not to provide USE. The Chinese do not understand, are not allowed to understand (because of political ideology) the Free Market. They do not see the need for establishing a reputation of quality, and of having repeat or referral sales. Theirs is “Batch-Production:” Set up a cheap pantomine of a product; run it off for some years; then close it down as orders dwindle. Liquidate the “company” and then re-form under a different name, with a slightly-differentiated product.

          Lather, rinse, repeat. And “Made in China” comes to mean “crap” just as “Made in Japan” has come to mean jewel-like quality.

          It’s interesting to examine the growth of Japanese marketshare versus China…or even, for that matter, the fall of German automobiles in reputation. Japan made a mediocre car that they lavished with Continuous Quality Improvement – but meantime, they stood behind the car. Stood strong and stood ready to help. Family members have received Toyota’s non-warranty FSB service replacements and repairs – extensive ones. For nothing – not even threats. Germany, which made cars of better and then similar quality, saw the customer not as a partner – but as a MARK.

          And China doesn’t care to look at the customer at all. To them the customer is the person placing the batch order.

          Exceptions? Yes. FOXCONN has their Chinese plants; and Honda makes lower-end motorcycles in there. In China but held to the company specifications. Perhaps the Party leaders see a need to try and salvage the bad rep that Chinese goods now have.

          No sane person is going to buy the Chinese equivalent of a Tesla. I don’t see the comparison…except that both are crony-corporate-government arrangements that enrich a few; deplete public monies; and in the end, leave buyers and/or investors, holding the bag.

          Reply
      • hank chinaski

        Agree wholeheartedly regarding financialization. The music can never stop; the entire entitlement system and public sector depends on growth, real or fabricated.

        Tesla’s biggest problem is PR from his customers’ endless ”autopilot mode’ mishaps. Play stupid games…

        I’m still not convinced that going full retard, um, electric is feasible outside of a boutique project like Tesla. Something like the Volt platform is probably a more realistic transitional design, IMO, barring dramatic changes in battery tech, charging time and breadth of infrastructure, etc.
        Right now, the market wants CUVs,SUVs, and pickups, so that’s what it gets.

        Reply
  7. Mozzie

    Linux references in the context of current events is why I come back to Riverside Green!

    As a finance professional who’s worked for private and public companies, I take issue with the way the earnings call was handled. To blow off analysts’ questions which were relevant to the call, only to go to YouTube to answer fan questions is unprofessional. I wonder why the CFO or COO didn’t jump in to handle it.

    I think there is a distinction to be made between commentary made by non-subject matter experts and the customer base at large. I agree that someone (like myself) who has never run a factory has no credibility in commenting on the production of the vehicles. However, if I buy a Tesla and then blog about how I don’t like the way the car feels on the road, I would be qualified to comment, as the cars are meant to be bought buy the public at large. Similarly, I don’t have to have made a Hollywood movie myself in order to say it was dumb.

    Whether pro or contra, I just want to see the end of the Tesla pronouncements ex-ante.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/03/here-are-highlights-of-elon-musks-strange-tesla-earnings-call-theyre-killing-me.html

    Reply
  8. Rob

    I love Elon Musk the visionary, and appreciate the business climate that allows him to do the crazy shit he does, like date Grimes for example. Supermodel she ain’t. But I cannot understand how Tesla Motors has an ever-increasing market value when it has been consistently unprofitable and has under-delivered on every production goal it has ever made. Must drive those dorks at Ford crazy, what with all their profit-making and long-range planning.

    This blog has exceptional writing and commenting, so perhaps someone with a background in finance can explain.

    Reply
    • Mozzie

      Rob, if you like podcasts I recommend Frank Curzio’s Wall Street Unplugged. The short of it has to do with expectations of future earnings. The comparisons here are to Netflix and Amazon. Netflix is still burning through cash, but their subscriber base exceeded expectations. Amazon’s value remained incredibly high despite their expenditures on their warehouse build-out. Once Amazon stopped building, they became even more valuable.

      I wish I had data to compare institutional investors versus retail in TSLA. It would make for an interesting graph if we could chart duration of positions compared to big new events.

      Reply
    • jcain

      Setting aside pure speculation, the simplistic explanation from my MBA classes is that there are 3 levers to the value of a generic company: growth, risk, and return (profit, loosely). Tesla is high risk and low (usually negative) return, so the share price implies significant future revenue growth that will make the company profitable.

      It’s like the investment thesis for most early-stage software companies – once you reach a level of revenue that covers your fixed costs, then most future revenue growth goes straight to the bottom line and you become massively profitable (see Google, Facebook).

      We could go down a rabbit hole of arguing how much that theory applies to Tesla. Certainly car companies aren’t low-marginal-cost business in the way that software companies are. Unlike taking on an incremental AdWords client, which is nearly free from Google’s perspective, producing an incremental car/battery/solar panel costs money in materials/labor/etc.

      That said, Tesla does run about a 19% gross margin, so they’re making money on each car sale. The question is whether they can produce and sell enough to cover their R&D, sales, and administrative costs.

      Reply
    • everybodyhatesscott

      But I cannot understand how Tesla Motors has an ever-increasing market value when it has been consistently unprofitable and has under-delivered on every production goal it has ever made.

      That fact that Tesla has a Market cap higher than Ford boggles my mind. But at least unlike the other power companies of silicon value that lose millions and are somehow still worth billions, Tesla at least makes something.

      Reply
  9. Martin

    Jalopnik’s shameful coverage of the recent Musk vs. media tweetstorm really takes the cake. “Racist dog-whistles” + “misogyny” + “literal Nazis you guys”. Literally proving Musk’s point.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      For me, the peak idiocy of that article was pointing out that Musk left South Africa “at the end of apartheid.”

      How dare he leave South Africa and build rockets! He was supposed to stay there and be raped to death like all the other whites!

      Reply
      • Bill Malcolm

        My niece, white Canadian, is married to a white South African. Met in London twenty years ago – he was South Africa motocross champion. They’re visiting us again back in Canada in a couple of weeks with the kids. Met his family. What is this raping to death you’re nattering about? Pile of silliness on a par with Jalopnik, unless there’s some underlying message I cannot divine that mitigates it.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          White South African farmers are being murdered at a pace that dwarfs the school shooting “epidemic” in the USA.

          Reply
    • Baconator

      Yeah, that was a new nadir for the Jalopnik editorial staff. It’s a shame – they’ve been doing some really good investigative reporting and motorsports stuff lately. David Tracy even seems to be becoming a decent, less-troublingly-dangerous mechanic.

      Anyway, Twitter is just a cesspool of everything wrong in America. It’s 4chan, the post-collegiate professional cocktail party edition.

      Reply
  10. John C.

    I agree largely with your piece. Beyond that, it is perhaps not the day to offer a comment section when Roseanne proved one wrong move can end a career no matter the success.

    Reply
    • Keith Tanner

      Roseanne had a career that was based upon entertainment, on being a public figure that was fun to have around. She had no value otherwise, so as soon as she became a liability instead of an asset she was gone. She also could only take advantage of this if she had a platform upon which to perform – and that’s what she lost.

      Musk offers a different value to society beyond idle chuckles, so it would take something very different to end his career. He also doesn’t rely on someone else providing the means for him to ply his trade.

      Reply
      • silentsod

        I thought she made a career being a comedienne and they are known to occasionally say offensive things if they think that they’re funny.

        There wasn’t enough time to even know if ratings would drop or the show would stop being a success – they just shit canned her because some people didn’t like an attempt at a joke.

        Reply
        • Keith Tanner

          The offensive parts are only acceptable if they’re balanced by enough entertainment. Guess she wasn’t funny enough to be that offensive. I suspect there were a lot of advertisers distanced themselves, which is a lot more important than ratings and which happens immediately.

          Reply
        • hank chinaski

          What’s the over-under on Sam Bee losing her job/advertisers after calling the President’s daughter a ‘cunt’? Bill Maher is still on after getting token flack for using a certain word and in the hard R pronunciation.

          Reply
  11. Kaemu

    Clearly we need more Elons. Teslas may be cool, but SpaceX is so much more interesting. The rocket launch business was stagnating until Musk pushed for real innovation such as reusable rockets. SpaceX is also pushing the power and payload to levels not seen since the Saturn V. Since that was apparently not risky enough, the company also designed and built a brand new engine (if I am not mistaken, that’s the first rocket engine designed and built in the US in quite a long time. ULA, the legacy rocket company, uses Russian engines…)

    If they got more of him where he came from, bring’em.

    Reply
    • Keith Tanner

      You can tell what sort of audience a website has by if they associate Musk with Telsa or SpaceX or something else. Car guys forget about SpaceX, but I agree that it’s had a massive effect. Tesla has as well, but since it’s consumer-facing the twitterati tends to focus on the specific product and not what it’s done to the automotive industry.

      Reply
  12. Ronnie Schreiber

    ” So I’ve made a personal choice. I’m no longer paying any attention to any Tesla-related media that doesn’t contain measured analysis from qualified personnel.”

    I think that the Bloomberg news agency has done a good job on covering Tesla’s production and financial challenges, but then they’ve included analysis from qualified people.

    Mush has quite a few plates he has to keep spinning if Tesla’s going to make it.

    Tesla has a lot of debt they have to pay off within the next 18 months. They have to get the Model 3 in serious mass production and generating revenue or they won’t be financially viable. Tesla has gotten hammered on quality control issues in early reviews of the Model 3 – it seems that a lot of the control software is beta-ish/buggy.

    Those are all real problems that have nothing to do with Musk and media figures sniping at each other.

    Reply
    • Sean Goldstein

      Just FYI, the Model 3 is already the #1 car in America in terms of revenue generation. Just a little fact the media tends to ignore.

      Reply
  13. Spud Boy

    Tesla brings out passions in people because of the tax credits offered for EVs.

    (And no, oil is not “subsidized”. Energy companies pay taxes on a product that makes a profit, which is completely different than the treasury cutting checks for alternative energy schemes that do NOT make a profit.)

    I drove a friend’s Model 3. I would think of it as an electric Acura TL. The acceleration of the electric drive is amazing, but the downsides are range anxiety, re-fueling time, unknown long term reliability and unknown resale value.

    Reply
  14. James

    If Tesla can fix your car’s brakes via an over-the-air software update, then it can disable them the same way.

    In this case, the fix is far more terrifying than the original bug. How does a software bug cause your brakes to stop working? How do you even begin to explain that in, say, an article about track-day brakes? But then you think: how do you fix that with an over-the-air software update? Is there a “brake_fase” variable, somewhere inside your car’s firmware, that anyone with the right private key can change, on the fly?

    Reply
    • anomaly149

      But actually, this is a big discussion in automotive. Some OEMs have taken the stand that safety equipment should be 100% separate from the OTA-capable systems. A car is a semi-durable good, and the current average fleet age is somewhere around 11 years old. This means the average car on the road was built when Windows Vista came out.

      This means that, in 11 years give or take, the average car will have relatively the same computer security capabilities as a brand spanking new fresh install of Windows Vista does in 2018. (come on, how much extra memory do you think they put in cars? There’s barely any room for more programming)

      And some folks are connecting brakes to OTA?

      This is a MAJOR issue.

      Reply
  15. aircooledTOM

    The video preview says duel not dual. This troubles me. Were the rockets doing sabers or pistols at dawn….

    Jarring to see such an error on a page where I regularly read such great writing from the contributors and commenters alike.

    I always feel like I learn something here. Thanks for that and apologies for the somewhat petty comment.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The video isn’t mine… it’s the best one I could find. Just think of it as dueling rockets, complete with deliverance soundtrack.

      Reply
    • DirtRoads

      I thank you for making that same comment running all ’round my brain. It’s a commonly misspelled word in the world, like “mute” vs. “moot,” “it’s” vs. “its”, “couldn’t care less” vs. “could care less” and the like. Some former “desktop publishers” like me, with a modicum of formal training on the subject, are still and always bugged by those common errors. *sigh*

      Thanks for the article, Jack. Some great writing, as you are wont to do. 🙂

      Reply
  16. bluebarchetta

    Three years ago, Elon Musk said he believed government would outlaw human-driven cars because “you can’t have people driving a two-ton death machine.”

    A guy taking government money to build autonomous cars, asking government to outlaw his competition. Gee, what a hero of capitalism Musk is. Wonder what Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, or even Teddy Roosevelt would have to say about him.

    Reply
    • Keith Tanner

      He said he believed they WOULD, or they SHOULD? Because that distinction puts a very different spin on your comment.

      If he thinks they will, then trying to be at the forefront of autonomous cars makes perfect sense. What else should he do in that case?

      If he thinks they should, then you can either see him as a believer – putting his efforts where he thinks they’ll do the most good for future generations – or you can take a cynical view and think he’s trying to fleece everyone. It’s a Rorchach test.

      Reply
  17. tyates

    Since I’ve written for publication and occasional profit in the past, please accept the following critical review of the above piece: 9/10 would read again.

    Reply
  18. dkleinh

    actually, Linus Torvalds did not invent an operating system, he wrote a kernel and then took some GNU rewrites of UNIX tools to make an operating system, but that said, what evolved out of that is very cool. But I also still like the BSDs.

    Reply
  19. Ryan

    I came for the commentary, but stayed for the obscure Simpsons reference..

    Not that my opinion really matters, but I too thought that Tesla was the Snapchat of auto companies until I spent 16 hours in one. In two years, things have only gotten better.

    Most “journalists” are absolutely ignorant of autonomy/mobility/electrification. If it isn’t one of Alex’s editorials or reviews, Bozi’s technical info, or on the weekly email blasts from Benedict Evans or Reilly Brennan, I take it with a grain of salt. There is definitely some bias there, but after the Electrik thing, at least you know the above know what they’re taking about.

    Reply
  20. Everybodyhatesscott

    You can do it as a sole proprietor and dont have to incorporate. LLC fees are about 150 bucks in Illinois to protect yourself from liability

    Reply
  21. chupachup

    I’m glad you made this post. This is my problem with TTAC, just endless drivel about Tesla failing here or Elon this. The only reasons I visit that site is for Murilee’s Monday morning junkyard find, and whatever you have written on there. The one thing about TTAC that I do like is what you write for them seems less edited than what you write for R&T.

    Reply
  22. Aoletsgo

    I am no Musk fan boy.
    But I deeply admire a person who can do so much in this day and age.
    In my working world we create and put our name on hard numbers and get taken to task by stone throwers from the back of the crowd.
    It is easy to anonymously throw stones from the crowd.
    It is Not easy to stand on the stage and defend what you have created with logic and integrity against others with emotional vendettas or hidden agendas.

    Reply
  23. safe as milk

    he may be an innovator but continuing to call the fancy cruise control on teslas “autopilot” is just irresponsible.

    Reply
  24. silentsod

    Autopilots maintain altitude and velocity so they’re not really doing very much. The public conflating ‘autopilot’ with auto navigation systems is the problem, even if Tesla’s Autopilot™ does more than autopilots do on planes.

    Reply
  25. I COME IN PEACE

    I agree with this.

    I was graciously invited to join a Tesla factory tour, right before the delivery of a relative’s Model S (certified pre-owned). It’s a very nice ride when it comes down to it. The factory itself was OK, but it’s a factory, not Disneyland. It’s kind of bleak, and filled with a take-a-wrong-step-and-you-get-decapitated-or-run-over sense of danger. The old NUMMI parking lot seemed to not have enough parking for the volume of people employed there. It absolutely reeked of weed.

    Reply
  26. Bill Malcolm

    Of course Musk should be lauded for actually being a doer and getting on with it. I admire his drive.

    But do all doers diss the “old-fashioned” manufacturing methods, boastfully claim to bypass all that stuff, and then fall flat on their face with their fondly-imagined new revolutionary methods when it doesn’t work? Some people just get on with it without the sideshow.

    Yes, I have spent time in manufacturing, and the new whiz-kids who sat around criticizing everything when they first joined soon found that their fondly-imagined new ideas were often useless in practice, just as Musk taught himself and lost six pissed-off execs while he finally realized that you have to delegate and rely on expert help rather than beat a dead horse to make it see things your way.. Otherwise why hire help in the first place? Great writing but not logically completely sound from where I sit. Good luck to Musk nevertheless.

    Reply
  27. tresmonos

    Elon has drained an entire Ford plant for their paint know-how. I’m sure he’s doing the same for Body and Finaly Assembly.

    What he is/was failing at right now or last week will be corrected in the future. He’s on the verge of getting it right. His mistake was not recruiting hard enough 2-3 years ago with the same salaries he’s offering today.

    Reply
    • Sean Goldstein

      That’s right. Tesla has been fortunate in that other automakers have been so slow to bring out decent BEVs. They had every advantage in terms of brand, distribution, supply chain, manufacturing, and have let Tesla catch up.

      The Bolt isn’t a bad car, but it also isn’t aspirational either, now is it?

      Reply

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