For as long as the electric car company Tesla has been in business, its name has been synonymous with the name of its founder and longtime CEO, Elon Musk. Tesla is Musk; Musk is Tesla. The two have always been intertwined. But with uncertainty about Musk’s leadership brewing among numerous stakeholders, there are now legitimate questions being raised about the eccentric billionaire’s future with his own company. According to CNN Business, there’s a real possibility that Tesla might soon be done with Musk.
Musk is a beloved figure among some, commanding something of a cult following. He’s also known to many in Tesla’s inner circle as an unreliable leader, prone to making PR gaffes that have hurt the stability of the company. Last year, Musk falsely tweeted that he had the funding to make the company private, a move that drew the ire of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Recently, he ruffled feathers at the SEC again, violating a settlement agreement by announcing that Tesla plans to build 500,000 cars this year. Musk was incorrect, as the real number is closer to 400,000.
Even some longtime Musk devotees are starting to worry about whether the CEO is fit for the job.
“We expect the debate of whether Tesla is better off without Musk will return,” said Gene Munster, managing partner of Loup Ventures. “Musk’s behavior remains careless. In this case, the tweet wasn’t as careless as the disrespect for the process he agreed to in the October settlement.”
Musk has developed a reputation as a bit of a loose cannon, and his antics have had an adverse effect on the company’s day-to-day operations. The headlines have caused volatility in Tesla’s stock price, not to mention turnover in executive talent. After Musk’s erroneous tweet about production last week, for example, Tesla’s top lawyer resigned. One might expect someone in Musk’s position to show remorse after making such a costly blunder, but Musk has done nothing of the sort.
Someone—either the company’s board, the SEC, or some combination thereof—may decide that it’s time for change. As Tesla continues to miss deadlines and make investors queasy, that outcome draws ever closer.
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