Elon Musk and other Tesla executives have always said that their company's biggest competitor is not another EV maker but manufacturers of internal combustion engine cars.
That certainly makes sense seeing as Tesla's ambitious production and sales goals cannot be met without the company stealing market share from ICEs, which continue to dominate the global automobile market.
But what would happen if an EV competitor arose and challenged Tesla's supremacy and even its existence with a better product? If you asked Elon Musk, he wouldn't mind that, Tesla board member Hiromichi Mizuno said.
Speaking at the World Government Summit on February 14, Mizuno told CNBC's Dan Murphy that Elon Musk says he would accept Tesla's bankruptcy if a rival launched a better EV.
"I disagree whenever Elon says I don't mind Tesla getting into bankruptcy if somebody else comes up with a better car. I think that's his philosophy and Tesla's philosophy," the Tesla board member said.
This is an interesting comment, to say the least, for three reasons. One would be that Mizuno disagrees with Elon's statement, which is logical for a board member whose job description is to look after his company's long-term interests.
Gallery: Tesla Giga Texas (Tesla Gigafactory 5)
The second reason why Mizuno's comment about Musk is interesting is because it suggests the billionaire said this more than once – he used the words "whenever Elon says." Does Musk really mean that? Probably; it's hard to think the eccentric billionaire said that for publicity reasons because that's hardly something he needs.
Of course, there's also the possibility Musk said that because he is overly confident no other company will manage to surpass Tesla in the EV market.
Asked what he thinks about Elon Musk's increasing workload, Mizuno joked that he was unsure whether the billionaire is a "human or alien," while also expressing his appreciation for the Tesla CEO's tenacity. "He seems to have incredible bandwidth over his work," Mizuno noted.
Hiromichi Mizuno, a former chief investment officer of the Japan Government Pension Investment Fund, was chosen to join Tesla's board in April 2020.
Elon Musk has previously said Tesla could have gone bankrupt multiple times during its two decades of existence. In November 2020, he said the company was "about a month" away from falling into bankruptcy from mid-2017 to mid-2019.