Given the bizarre outbursts and increasingly grandiose performance-related promises (even as his company's Fremont factory has continued to struggle), many have speculated that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been cracking under the pressure. In one sign that the pressures of running Tesla (not to mention SpaceX and Neuralink) have been weighing on the CEO, some have pointed out that he's becoming increasingly vindictive toward anybody who doubts or questions him: for example, he recently spent $25 million of his own money on Tesla shares just to blow up a few shorts after tweeting threats of "unreal carnage".
In a story that lays bare Musk's obsession with his public image and his inability to tolerate criticism or dissent from his employees or the media, Buzzfeed published a piece late Thursday that's packed with alarming details, including the story of Musk's meltdown during a conversation with regulators from the National Transportation Safety Board.
An outburst from Musk that ended the conversation prompted the NTSB to announce that Tesla would no longer be cooperating with the investigation. In a separate incident, Musk went "ballistic" during a conversation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after a representative informed Elon Musk that the agency would be announcing an investigation into a May 2016 crash involving a Tesla Model S in Florida.
No one lectures Elon Musk. In April, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board discovered this after a call about his organization’s investigation into one of Tesla Motors’ autopiloted vehicles devolved into a heated exchange, leading the billionaire entrepreneur to hang up on the federal regulator. That fiery interaction eventually leaked to the press and ricocheted around the internet as further evidence that Musk was losing it.
For example, in June 2016 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had contacted Tesla as a courtesy heads-up that it would be announcing an investigation into a May crash that killed the driver of a Model S sedan on Autopilot. It was the kind of call that, at most companies, would require executive restraint and sensitivity. Musk was not originally supposed to be on the call with NHTSA officials, Tesla’s general counsel, and the head of its Autopilot team, but chimed in as the conversation got underway. It was unfair that NHTSA was targeting his company, he said, noting that skeptics would just use the public investigation as evidence that Tesla was in trouble.
After failing to convince the government officials to keep their investigation private and forgo their announcement scheduled for the next day, Musk went ballistic and embarked on a profanity-laced tirade. He threatened to sue NHTSA for what he saw as unfair scrutiny and then abruptly disconnected the phone, leaving the people left on the line shocked.
"I couldn’t believe it," said a former Tesla employee familiar with the call.
Musk's recent behavior isn't...