A new book has documented what the author claims to be Elon Musk’s mercurial temper and recounts several episodes of rage that he flew into during stressful times as Tesla’s CEO.
Reporter Tim Higgins adapted a section of his upcoming book Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century for the Wall Street Journal on Friday, describing the stressful period of September 2018.
At the time, Musk’s job and the company’s future was on the line, as Tesla raced to roll out the crucial Model 3 before the end of September, in order to record those sales for the quarter.
Musk had set the ambitious goal of delivering 100,000 Model 3s by the end of the quarter — more cars than the company sold in the entire prior year — and one anecdote recounts how he chewed out a manager who told him it was not realistic.
On a nightly conference call, a manager with years of experience overseeing supply chains for the Army National Guard told him that the company was on pace to deliver 80,000 cars for the quarter, and that his 100,000 goal was impossible.
Within days, Musk fired the manager, according to the book, telling other executives he was disappointed with her ‘fundamental inability to perform.’
In the end, Tesla’s deliveries reached 83,500 for the quarter, nearly exactly what the fired manager had predicted.
A new book has documented Elon Musk’s mercurial temper and recounts several episodes of rage that he flew into during stressful times as Tesla’s CEO
Musk has refuted many of the claims in the book, saying in a tweet: ‘Higgins managed to make his book both false *and* boring.’
On another daily conference call described in the book, Musk reportedly took Las Vegas sales manager Cayle Hunter to task even as he announced scheduling a record 1,700 people to pick up their Model 3s in the coming days.
Musk ordered Hunter to double the number the next day, and threatened to fire him if he called a single customer, insisting that text messages were better.
Hunter panicked because the Las Vegas store did not have the hundreds of company cell phones needed to text thousands of customers, but pieced together a solution using software that allowed his team to text from their computers.
Just nine months into his job, with his wife and children only recently having relocated to join him in Las Vegas, Hunter was desperate at the thought of losing his job, and spurred his team into a frenzy of activity.
Often, they didn’t even wait for a customer to respond to a text before putting them down for the assigned pickup time, warning buyers that they’d have to wait until the next quarter if they didn’t make their designated appointment.
By the end of the day, Hunter’s team had reached 5,000 appointments, and he fought back tears as he gathered them to thank them, not revealing that his job had been on the line.
The Tesla plant in Fremont, California is seen above. A new book makes surprising claims about Elon Musk, but he has panned it as ‘false’
In another instance, the book claims that Musk flew into a rage when a manager put in notice that he was quitting the company.
Musk confronted the manager at the the Fremont delivery center, screaming profanities and berating the man.
‘I don’t want anyone here who is going to quit on me during a time as important as now,’ Musk reportedly said.
Musk followed the manager into the parking lot, continuing the confrontation, according to the book.
The incident even resulted in a board investigation after rumors that Musk had physically shoved the man, though the board ultimately said there was no physical altercation, according to the book.
Another incident described in the book predates the pressure cooker weeks of September 2018.
According to a review in the Los Angeles Times, the book claims that Musk once demanded to be made the CEO of Apple during discussions of a potential Tesla buyout with Tim Cook — though both Musk and Cook deny they have ever spoken.
In 2016, Apple CEO Cook had called Musk to propose acquiring the electric carmaker, which was struggling financially ahead of the unveiling of the Model 3, according to the book.
Musk expressed his interest in the idea but had one condition, telling Cook: ‘I’m CEO.’
Cook at first thought Musk meant that he wanted to remain CEO of Tesla after the merger, and said that he was not opposed to the idea.
But when Musk clarified that he expected to take Cook’s job as Apple CEO, Cook responded ‘F*** you’ and hung up, according to the new book.
Apple denies the conversation took place – and says, in fact, Cook has never even spoken to Musk.
Musk also refuted the report in a tweet, writing: ‘Cook & I have never spoken or written to each other ever.’
‘There was a point where I requested to meet with Cook to talk about Apple buying Tesla. There were no conditions of acquisition proposed whatsoever. He refused to meet. Tesla was worth about 6% of today’s value,’ added Musk.
The book claims that Musk once demanded Tim Cook (above) make him the CEO of Apple — though both Musk and Cook deny they have ever spoken
Higgins, the reporter, fired back in a tweet of his own, writing: ‘Musk was given plenty of opportunities to comment on this. He didn’t. This anecdote comes from Musk’s own account of the conversation, according to people who heard the retelling at the time.’
The book was apparently written without any cooperation from Musk. When given opportunities to comment, Higgins said Musk declined, except to tell the author: ‘Most, but not all, of what you read in this book is nonsense.’
Many of the anecdotes revealed in the book highlight what the author suggests is Musk’s mercurial temper.
In one case, a factory line worker at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California told Musk that he’d come up with a way to fix a car window’s screeching sound by making an incision in the seal, according to the book.
Musk flew into a rage at manufacturing executive John Ensign, who was present, demanding to know why he hadn’t come up with the solution.
‘This is unacceptable that you had a person working in your factory that knows the solution and you don’t even know that!’ Musk reportedly said.
Musk fired Ensign, who actually had known about the proposed fix, but didn’t want to embarrass the factory worker by revealing that engineers had already tried it, but found that it only worked temporarily.
According to the LA Times review, the book focuses more on the history of Tesla than Musk personally, highlighting the achievements of lesser known employees, many of whom departed after clashing with Musk.
Earlier this week, Tesla announced that its quarterly profit had surpassed $1billion for the first time, and the company is now valued at a staggering $680 billion.
The financial milestone announced on Monday extended a two-year run of prosperity that has erased questions about Tesla’s long-term viability raised during its early years of losses and production problems.
Tesla now has cemented its position as the leader in the shift away from gas-combustion that is expected to make it even more profitable than during its most recent quarter.
Musk hold’s the world’s second largest personal fortune at $185 billion as of Thursday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
For all its recent success, Tesla’s momentum could still be slowed by a persisting shortage of chips that have become vital parts in modern cars.
While other major automakers had to dramatically curtail production during the first half, Tesla so far has been able to secure an adequate supply of chips to churn out vehicles at the fastest rate in its history.
In the most recent quarter, Tesla delivered more than 206,000 vehicles within a three-month span for the first time in its history. It is also gearing up to add another sports utility vehicle, the Model Y, to its lineup later this year.