Musk May Be Tesla’s Biggest Fate Risk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk


What makes Tesla strong is the same thing that makes it weak.

As the California-based automaker purposefully whirrs down the straight and narrow, Elon-Pilot keeps it glued to the center of its lane. Not much ping-ponging here. Mileposts erected in CEO Musk’s master plan have clicked by with such regularity, many early critics have been lulled to silence. His strategy of constant expansion and long-term vision can be credited for Tesla’s enjoyment of a stunning $59.78 billion market capitalization. But what happens if, due to human frailty, Musk is no more?

That’s the question that’s been posed by CNBC. And, being the helpful sorts of folks they are, they’ve laid out a number of steps Tesla can take, along with some criticisms, in preparation for the inevitable. It seems mostly like common sense stuff, though we’ve no way of knowing which of the concerns have been already addressed. Hopefully all of them.

Number one on the list is “Have a succession plan.” Suggested (probably) by Captain Obvious, this is a call to have, in writing, a plan to follow in the case of catastrophe. While we assume the board would quickly name a successive chairperson, who, exactly, would wear each of the hats currently occupied by the expertly coiffed head of Mr. Musk?  If the worst case scenario were to occur, the various Tesla factories wouldn’t coming to a shuddering halt, of course. But, if some amount of confusion were allowed to creep in, productivity would certainly fall off, and there could be some drifting from the course set by its long-time leader.

The second item on the list — “Have key-executive insurance” —  is hardly worth bringing up and they pretty much discard it themselves. Mentioning Musk’s immense worth to the company, and his special-case status, they go on to say it’s a preparation more relevant to “closely held partnerships.” Fine.

JB Straubel, Chief Technology Officer, Tesla Motors

Finally, we get to the third item: “Put in place a well-rounded executive team.” Now, here is something worth mulling. While Tesla does have some top-notch people, there’s an argument to be made for expansion of the executive suite. As previously mentioned, Musk wears a lot of hats. He’s part product designer, marketing and sales manager, quality control inspector; the list goes on. If he had people doing their jobs well enough in these positions, he wouldn’t need to spread himself so thin, leaving him time to concentrate on what he does best.

Presently, as CNBC points out,  Tesla only lists three corporate officers on its investor website: CEO Elon Musk, CFO Deepak Ahuja, and CTO JB Straubel. Of course it has other high-level executives, but if the CEO is sleeping in the factory, if fit and finish of final product is still uneven, if workplace safety isn’t equal to others in the industry, if customer care is spotty, than perhaps top-level corporate structure needs to be reassessed. Better to take care of that business when all is well, then have to muddle through without a key player.

The last item on the list is, “Communicate the plan to everyone on your team — employees, customers, investors and lenders.”  This is another thing that, if they aren’t working on, they should be, regardless of the risk of fate stepping onto the scene in an unwanted way. If you haunt Tesla customer and fan forums, then likely you know of many discussions revolving around communications. As production ramps up, so does the need for more responsiveness. Ideally, a reservation holder should never be left wondering for weeks whether someone will call or send an email. A customer with service issues should not have repeated correspondence go unanswered. An investor should have a clear and accurate representation of what to expect in the short and medium term.

Even if Elon stays in perfect health for another hundred years, which we hope is the case (come on, longevity science!), the areas highlighted here could probably use some amount of attention. With the fate of the company so closely tied to the one person who tightly controls it, the onus is on him to figure out how to effectively share the work load and distribute the risk.

Source: CNBC

Categories: Tesla


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28 Comments on "Musk May Be Tesla’s Biggest Fate Risk"

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I have full confidence in JB Straubel if he took charge. His talks on youtube are worth the time to watch.

Unless Elon takes him for a car ride and they both crash

I only give your comment like a 2 out of 10 in creativity. If we’re going to make stuff up to be Concerned!! about, at least have some creativity.

What if when the eclipse blocks the sun, it just stays there and the US is stuck in eclipse forever? You know, with the moon in the way of the Sun as it circles the earth?

What if there is a huge global earthquake, and all the important people on earth all get into a bunch of secret space craft and fly away, but they all crash into each other and everybody dies?


Hmmm, my first reaction to reading the article was to ask “What if a giant meteor hits Fremont and wipes out every Tesla building there?”

But I thought that was too silly to post. 😉

The big one taking place in Fremont with Musk and Straubel inside the factory is a bit less unlikely than the permanent solar eclipse.

This said I think Tesla would still overcome even that catastrophic event.

For Mars colonization it would be much harder though without Space X and Elon’s special dedication.

“But what happens if, due to human frailty, Musk is no more?” Wow! This is the first time I’ve seen a “concern troll” post developed into a full-fledged article here at InsideEVs! And hopefully it will be the last. “Musk wears a lot of hats. He’s part product designer, marketing and sales manager, quality control inspector; the list goes on. If he had people doing their jobs well enough in these positions, he wouldn’t need to spread himself so thin, leaving him time to concentrate on what he does best.” And indeed, this is exactly why I keep saying that it would be better for Tesla if Elon were to take a step back, away from the CEO position into more of an advisory role, and concentrate his efforts on SpaceX… and perhaps the Boring Co., as that seems to be growing beyond its beginnings as a rich man’s half-joke, half-fantasy. As Tesla expands and matures, the already questionable benefits of a micro-managing CEO dwindle more and more. Musk does indeed need to delegate much more authority to other top Tesla executives, and as this article suggests, Tesla needs to hire more top execs, or promote some into more senior… Read more »

yes, this should not have been said out loud!

Hard not to mention the unmentionable when that was the premise of the article I was tasked with covering.

Luckily, we don’t live in the type of world where just talking about a possibility causes its outcome.

Yeah, it’s not like a forum where you can go off on any old tangent. You have to stick to the specific import of the article you were covering.

To the author’s defense, the origin of the FUD is actually CNBC. He’s just the messenger.

But yea, stories like this is beginning to look more like the old ABG, before The Exodus of green car fans. It’s not a good trend. Just because CNBC posts some Concern Trolling Op-ed from a guest writer, doesn’t mean it is worthy of being amplified to a larger audience.

It’s certainly a relevant question when so much of the company and especially its valuation is based on Elon Musk. The stock value is completely based on Musk’s vision, it’s certainly not based on any fundamentals.

Maybe some Koch Head will take him out, to try and stop the ev revolution.
Even so, I think Frankenstein’s creation continues to live on, regardless.

So the @OP that two days ago brought us the clever UAW inspired propaganda:

“Tesla Model 3 Production Hell Might Be Unsafe?”

today brings us:

“Musk May Be Tesla’s Biggest Fate Risk”


Perhaps tomorrow this @OP will write:

“Should Tesla Be Stopped Before Tesla Grows Too Large to Fail?”


“Reasons the Tesla Supercharging Network Should Be Nationalized to Benefit All Car Makers”

Oh, why stop at halfway measures? No point in beating around the bush, just go directly to:


or even…


This @OP article implies that Tesla currently:

1. Has No Succession Plan

2. Has No Key-Executive Insurance

3. That Musk Does Not Communicate Tesla’s Plans


@OP implying that Musk keeps as a secret to himself Tesla’s plans takes the cake:

The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me) – 2006:

Master Plan, Part Deux – 2016:

It is not possible to run both SpaceX and Tesla at the same time and to be a micro manager. And having a strong opinion (what Musk does) is definately not micromanagement.

Well, you’re certainly correct to say that no one person could possibly micromanage literally everything that goes on at Tesla Inc., let alone both Tesla and SpaceX. Tesla has gotten to be much too big a company.

But if Elon doesn’t really micromanage everything going on at Tesla, it’s not for lack of trying! We are, after all, talking about a guy who says he keeps (or at least kept) a sleeping bag at the end of the auto production line so he could personally check the fit and finish of the interior of every car coming off the line.

And that’s just one example. Plenty more examples of Elon’s sometimes obsessive micromanagement if you read one of the tell-all articles about Tesla’s rocky early years.

This is typical of startup companies, the CEO is typically the main salesperson, fund raiser, operations, etc. Tesla due to its size now has moved past this stage and should have a much larger executive team.

Damns, the Tesla fanboys are scrambling…

No… The Tesla Trolls are apparently desperate to paint anything negative to drop Tesla’s Stock. And this recently purchased blog, now seems to hold a suspect anti-EV agenda. Huh.

Boo hoo, shorts. You wear ’em. You eat ’em. It’s too late to stop the HyperLoop of Fossil Fuel Doom. 😀

As long as Musk does not push for more pop out door handles nor falcon wing doors, risk will be reduced.

But he keeps talking about the idea of putting falcon wing doors on the Model Y.


What is Musk’s real value to Tesla? His vision(s), setting goals for the vision(s) and driving the company to meet the goals.

Mr.Musk must remember management 101: “Get work done thru other people.” Set mile stones, delegate and follow up.

If Musk left the company they would need to find another person with the ability to see into the future as well as he; a good example is Apple where they are still searching for another Steve Jobs.

We certainly should credit Elon Musk with being willing to bet his entire personal fortune on Tesla’s success, back when nearly all financial analysts were saying Tesla would most likely fail. And it did nearly fail, at least once; possibly more than once. We should also credit Musk for staying true to the vision of Tesla founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning; Tesla has indeed followed their mission statement of making progressively less expensive cars (well, if you ignore the Model X, which was a branching development off the MS.) But as companies grow, they may need a different sort of leader than the one they started out with. Some say that it was good for Tesla’s success that Musk pushed out Eberhard and the other actual founders; that the company wouldn’t have grown, and likely wouldn’t even still be in business, if Eberhard was still at the helm. Maybe they’re right. And maybe Elon’s tendency to micromanage is now holding Tesla back from growing as rapidly as it needs to. Maybe Tesla would be better off with someone else as CEO; someone more willing to delegate authority. Of course, it’s easy for me as an “armchair CEO” to suggest… Read more »

I’ve been watching Elon for quite a while and read a biography about him.

I was also fascinated with Howard Hughes.

I see parallels between the 2. I think they both suffer from some mental abnormalities that they control due to their high intelligence level.

Maybe I’m just paranoid but I see more of these abnormalities coming out of Elon lately. More just intuition than specific incidences. some not worth mentioning.

So yeh. Elon needs to leave JB in charge. …and don’t lose the designer Franz either.

Having been a boss I can tell you the more people you have under you the less productive you are.

Elon Musk seems to be an inexorable driving force behind some extremely disruptive developments. I wonder how easily unique individuals like that can be replaced. History is rife with stories about great leaders building great empires only to see their successors run things into the ground.

For that reason I am concerned about his safety. There is a lot of vested interests out there who must be dreaming of a world without Elon Musk in it at this point. It doesn’t even matter that everybody will understand what really happened, history shows that the powers that be can pull off any foul play without anything ever proven.

Okay, dark thought of the day…

“Mitsugo no tamashii hyaku made”
(The soul of a three year old stays with him a hundred years – Japanese saying)

When I look at Musk’s biography, especially his early childhood and the unusual relation to his mother (he chose to live with his father) and other unusual habits in early life, and when I look at the results of recent brain research e.g. Bruce D. Perry, Shelley Uram, Bryan Post, then I’m really concerned about Musk and his health on the long term. If you haven’t learned to autoregulat stress at the right time in your life, you develop a complex PTSD with chronic stress, which is toxic, leading to all kind of civilization diseases, including heart failure and cancer.