The Tesla Moonshot Concept – Musk Always Delivers, Albeit In Good Time

Tesla Model 3

JAN 5 2018 BY EVANNEX 36

Tesla

Elon Musk first introducing a prototype for Tesla’s Model X back in 2012 (Image: Autoweek)

THE ELON MUSK MOONSHOT APPROACH – MISSED DEADLINES ARE A GOOD THING

Tesla skeptics never tire of pointing out the company’s history of missing target dates for vehicle deliveries and other milestones. They do have a point. The most egregious example is of course Model X, which Tesla began delivering many months after the originally announced date. The latest offender is Model 3 – the company did technically deliver it on time, but so far production numbers are running far short of predictions, and buyers who signed up for the promised $35,000 EV are likely to be waiting until well into 2018. The development of Autopilot 2 also seems to be behind schedule – it looks like the promised driverless run from New York to LA will be pushed into next year.

However, the naysayers are dead wrong when they say Elon Musk hasn’t fulfilled his promises. Except for a few things, most of which nobody really wanted (battery swapping, a rollercoaster to get around the Tesla campus). He promised a compelling electric sedan, an SUV with towing capability and eye-catching Falcon Wing doors, a reusable rocket that can land on a barge at sea (!), and other achievements straight out of the science fiction books, and all of these are now a reality. Nevada Gigafactory? Open and producing batteries. Solar roof tiles? Rolling off the line in Buffalo. World’s largest battery array? Check (and this one was on time).

Considering Tesla’s stock market performance and the company’s legions of adoring fans, it’s clear that most people value accomplishment over punctuality. As Trent Eady, writing on Seeking Alpha, put it, “If Musk promises you the moon in six months and delivers it in three years, keep things in perspective: you’ve got the moon.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris.

What if Musk and company’s habit of missing self-announced deadlines is not a bug but a feature? Tesla Motors Club member Patrick C argues in a recent blog post that the “dream big and deliver late” strategy is actually the key to Tesla’s (and SpaceX’s) success.

Those of us who’ve been watching this show for a while have learned not to trust Musk’s predicted timelines. So why do his words still carry so much weight? Because we believe in what he’s doing, and we can see how hard he personally is working towards these goals, moving his “desk” to wherever the latest bottleneck is, and camping on the roof of the Gigafactory. “If Musk [were] viewed as just a wild dreamer, he would not have the following that he does,” writes Patrick C. “Musk is trying to do something that is important, something that’s never been done before, and that many people would like to see succeed. When this is the case, many are likely to give you some slack on the schedule, as long as you are working hard and showing progress.”

Above: Check out the historic landing of a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral with Elon Musk and the SpaceX team (Youtube: National Geographic)

The most consistent carping about missed timelines comes from stock market analysts because they focus on meeting quarterly forecasts. This obsession with short-term results is a major failing of today’s corporate world – as Patrick points out, it leads executives to think small, concentrating on things that can be done in three months. But Musk does not think small. He thinks in terms of “moonshots,” or “big hairy audacious goals,” which aren’t guaranteed to succeed, and can’t be done on a firm quarterly schedule. “To accomplish something of magnitude, you have to be willing to fail and you have to be willing to disappoint the Street,” says Patrick.

But if Musk and those around him know all this, why make over-optimistic predictions? Why not just say, “Here’s what we mean to accomplish, and it’ll be done when it’s done?”

Popular economist Danny Kahneman offered an answer in a recent episode of Freakonomics Radio: “If you realistically present to people what can be achieved to solve a problem, they will find that uninteresting. You have to overpromise in order to get anything done. When you look at big successes, the people that carried out those big successes were unrealistically optimistic. This may be necessary to get the initial resources and it may be necessary to get the enthusiasm that is needed to achieve anything at all because there is so much inertia that realistic promises are at a major disadvantage.”

Another pertinent quote comes from Mikhail Bakunin: “By striving to do the impossible, man has always achieved what is possible.”

As Patrick puts it, “If you want to move people off the status quo, you have to present them with something exciting. A promise of something 10 years from now will be discounted to the point of insignificance and ignored by most.”

Tesla

Patience… the Model 3’s are coming — a look at Tesla prepping for Model 3 Christmas deliveries  (Reddit: tesla99)

A case in point: the timid promises made by major automakers, who announce plans to launch new lines of electric vehicles by 2025, or by politicians, who pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by such-and-such an amount by 2050. These goals may be better than nothing, but they don’t excite anybody because we all know that the people who set them will be on the golf course (or maybe we’ll all be underwater) by the time set for their completion.

In contrast, when Musk makes a promise, we know he stands behind it. The timeline may be shaky, but the goal is never in doubt. And the goals are important ones, innovations that can improve all of our lives and lead to a more sustainable society. In a world where politicians constantly harp on things we can’t afford, and problems that we can’t hope to solve, while the corporate world focuses on trivia like how to design a better razor or a quicker way to share videos of our cats, Musk is one of very few leaders who inspire people with a hopeful vision of the future. Humans can still accomplish great things, but only if we’re patient, and are willing to accept some failures and missed deadlines along the way.

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Written by: Charles Morris

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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36 Comments on "The Tesla Moonshot Concept – Musk Always Delivers, Albeit In Good Time"

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stimpacker
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stimpacker

At most other large high tech companies that I know of (and have worked for), they too (obviously) have Moonshot projects. Only difference is they choose to announce only after significant milestones are made.

It is better for team morale to have internal goals not made public. So when they push hard and finally deliver, it is viewed as an accomplishment.

The Tesla method frustrates both employees and customers but delights shareholders and fanboys.

jelloslug
Guest
jelloslug

It creates hype, and hype (good or bad) is a much better advertiser than any ad agency could ever be.

CDAVIS
Guest
CDAVIS

@stimpacker said: “It is better for team morale to have internal goals not made public.“
—————-

I disagree with that…. for Tesla. Rapid innovation is a large part of what is expected of Tesla and a large part of what makes Tesla valuable. Tesla having two versions of a goal would create an “expected goal” (public goal message) greatly marginalizing the “inspirational goal” (insider goal message)… thus lowering Tesla’s rate of innovation. From day one, Tesla has been very public transparent about its internal goals and that’s a good thing.

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

I think so. It certainly is better to be diaphanous.

SparkEV
Guest

“diaphanous”

I just had flashback to SAT prep course in high school. *shudders*

CDAVIS
Guest
CDAVIS

“Team morale” wise…

Tesla employees are well aware of Tesla’s long standing history of shoot-high goal setting and are not demoralized by that… they are instead insprired by that.

Elooney Muskey
Guest
Elooney Muskey

Amen. More like a stock pump, followed by stock dump.
But I digress. I’m still waiting for the battery swap.

Edinho Carvalho
Guest
Edinho Carvalho

“It is better for team morale to have internal goals not made public. So when they push hard and finally deliver, it is viewed as an accomplishment”.

More or less. It’s good to morale, BUT when you spread goals you become much more committed to it. It’s a technique used for a lot of people to stay focused on achieving them.

Peter
Guest
Peter

The truth is that every day everybody fails a lot of times in fulfilling there promises.
More in some places like Spain or Italy were they promise a lot.
Still most thing do happen sooner or later even for these people.
Elon has succeeded in almost all that he has set his mind to so hats of for Elon. Elon for President!!!

Six Electrics
Guest
Six Electrics

The difference between Elon and others is mostly economic. Very few others are willing to lose money to the degree that SolarCity, SpaceX and Tesla have. None have made a dime, and this allows them to burst ahead of others who don’t have the money, or aren’t willing to spend it. Money, even wasted, accelerates things.

This scheme, unfortunately, requires a continual source of new funds, which requires constant hype. Thus the Elon hype-industrial complex, of which Evannex is a minor stooge.

wavelet
Guest
wavelet

There’s a significant legal difference between Tesla and SpaceX… Tesla is a public corp., meaning its directors (incl. Musk) are trustees for the shareholders. If the official stated goal of the corp. is to make money (as Tesla’s is — it’s not a non-profit corp.), it would be legally speaking criminal of the corp. officers to behave otherwise.

Doggydogworld
Guest
Doggydogworld

Non-profit status is a taxation issue. The Green Bay Packers opt for non-profit status but make huge profits.

Tesla’s officers must ensure capital is deployed in pursuit of the corporate goals. They do that. As far as I’ve seen, their corporate goals do not include profitability.

Please show us the law which states a corporation who chooses for-profit taxation status MUST have profitability as a corporate goal.

Vexar
Guest
Vexar

If you add up the capital that Tesla has, booked eals, etc., they certainly have a lot of net worth. It may not be a dime exactly, but it is significant.

I’m not convinced SpaceX isn’t making money. how many launches last year? Maybe this year they turn a profit.

Solar City… no comment at this time.

chrishu
Guest
chrishu

The difference between elon a d the rest is that elon is a visionary leader and engineer/physicist, who puts his own money and that of his shareholders every time on the line to accomplish things in a automotive industry and a industrial-military industry (rockets) that were long overdue. There are only a few multinatiols who in recent time had the same kind of leaders; bill gates microsoft, zuckerbergs facebook .

jimjfox
Guest
jimjfox

Facebook– shudder!!

Paul Smith
Guest
Paul Smith

It’s not hype if he delivers, and he does.

Peter
Guest
Peter

When Model3 is reaching 5000 produced per week there will be huge profits.
SpaceX makes profit.
So will batteries and solar roofs very soon and then what you will say that Elon just got lucky ? And some German carmakers had bad luck ?
Don’t think so.

William
Guest
William

In the 21st century, Musk and SpaceX may make the term “moonshot” seem a tad bit underwhelming, and a bit too near Earth.

Maybe a revised and updated term, such as “Mars-shot” or “MuskMarshot”, would be a more ambitious and relevant term for the private equity funded upcoming space race.

DJ
Guest
DJ

“However, the naysayers are dead wrong when they say Elon Musk hasn’t fulfilled his promises.”

Not doing what you’re going to do by the time you say you’re going to is exactly not fulfilling your promises. You don’t get to somehow meet your promises simply because you’ve met part of what you said you were going to do.

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

I think that is true. Part of the promise includes a temporal element, so if you don’t meet that in a timely manner you really haven’t fulfilled your promise.
Example: Try that with the IRS

Peter
Guest
Peter

Not a problem with IRS.
They don’t car as long as you one way or another full fill paying your tax.
You may have to pay some extra fee but still they are happy.

Paul Smith
Guest
Paul Smith

Fulfilling promises late is still fulfilling promises.

Peter
Guest
Peter

Totally agree.
That is how business works.

But people that are not so experienced with business have a hard time understanding that.

ffbj
Guest
ffbj

I’d take a bite out of the Moon for you!
A great song.

James
Guest
James

Better Late Than Never.

Without government pressure, that would mean never for all ICEmakers. Even with government mandate,do you want electric transportation appliances eked out in tiny portions in selected areas or exciting, invigorating future machines that make current gas burners look crude and worthy of extinction?

To quote grandma once more before parting: Good things come to those that wait.

Pushmi-Pullyu
Guest
Pushmi-Pullyu

“Missed deadlines are a good thing”

No. Just no.

Once you get a reputation for missing deadlines, then no one takes your projections seriously anymore. If you’re a business, that includes your suppliers and your investors.

Bad all around.

“Considering Tesla’s stock market performance and the company’s legions of adoring fans, it’s clear that most people value accomplishment over punctuality.”

That’s entirely true. But saying that achievements are more important than setting realistic timelines is very, very far from saying that “Missed deadlines are a good thing”.

Peter
Guest
Peter

You are totally wrong here.

The world would not evolve without people that set high goals.

Reaching you goals a bit late is normal.

Get Real
Guest
Get Real

This is the most important part of the story:

“The most consistent carping about missed timelines comes from stock market analysts because they focus on meeting quarterly forecasts. This obsession with short-term results is a major failing of today’s corporate world – as Patrick points out, it leads executives to think small, concentrating on things that can be done in three months.”

The “think small” and “This obsession with short term results…” very precisely sums up he incumbent culture and why the laggard Auto OEMs were and, in many cases, are just dragging their feet and slow walking the inevitable transition to full electrification.

It stifles innovation and that is why Musk/Tesla is flat out-innovating all the others at this stage.

That and the fact that Musk and his management look at the problems with a First Principals/science based outlook and design/engineer the solutions/products accordingly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV3sBlRgzTI

When you “think small”, you let other priorities, i.e.-me too analogies intrude too much into a First Principals/design/engineering system.

Rick Woodbury
Guest

Elon doesn’t plan to overpromise. He has no way of knowing how long it will take to do something that has never been done before. He can only guess. Try building something completely new and see how you do. It’s easy to criticize when you have no clue as to what’s involved in producing something. We should all applaud his accomplishments and understand that he’s doing everything he can to fulfill his promises, even if they can’t be predicted accurately. It’s completely different when building something that you’ve been building for years. That’s easy to predict.

Doggydogworld
Guest
Doggydogworld

“He has no way of knowing how long it will take to do something that has never been done before.”

But some of his worst timeline misses are things which HAVE been done many times before, and done extremely well. Musk blathers about alien dreadnoughts and robots moving so fast that air friction becomes an issue, but 15 years in he’s still the least efficient and arguably the lowest quality car manufacturer in the first world. Tesla would be in much better shape if they’d just copied Toyota manufacturing (or subcontracted it out entirely) and focused their innovation on electronics and software, actual Silicon Valley competencies.

jim stack
Guest
jim stack

Excellent summary. Your last paragraph should win an award of some kind. It’s the best statement of what Tesla is doing while others add cup holders and vinyl roofs. Thank you.

QUOTE=In contrast, when Musk makes a promise, we know he stands behind it. The timeline may be shaky, but the goal is never in doubt. And the goals are important ones, innovations that can improve all of our lives and lead to a more sustainable society. In a world where politicians constantly harp on things we can’t afford, and problems that we can’t hope to solve, while the corporate world focuses on trivia like how to design a better razor or a quicker way to share videos of our cats, Musk is one of very few leaders who inspire people with a hopeful vision of the future. Humans can still accomplish great things, but only if we’re patient, and are willing to accept some failures and missed deadlines along the way

NickP
Guest
NickP

Amazon lost money for many- many years (10 years?)- and the stock market complained – now its make huge amounts and Bezos worth $101B who are the fools?

mx
Guest
mx

Ford hired another Wall Street CEO, what did shareholders get? Production moved to Mexico and China. Ford’s EV program will now be built in China at the dictates of the Chinese government.

In fact, FORD put in their contract with China that they will NOT LOBBY TRUMP for matching Tariff Rules. i.e. Game Theory 101. If China demands technology transfer on US/China cars, the US should put in place the exact same rule. If China issues a 20% import tax on US cars, the US should issue a 20% import tax on Chinese cars.
Ford committed TREASON against US auto production.

That’s Wall Street CEO “Leadership”.

Even GM.
After the Bolt Mary hasn’t promised anything. There’s no new concept, there just a vague plan about some possible new cars. That’s a lot of “excitement” and “leadership” there.

Bill Howland
Guest
Bill Howland

Yeah I’ll agree to that – Most GM spokesmen, including Barra talk all day and say little.

But they are committed to 20 electrified vehicles – I just fear 2 of them will be new nameplated BOLTS (the buick and caddy versions), and the 18 ‘large ev’s’ will be all H2 powered, which can’t be used in my area since Poor Buffalo could never afford any dispensing stations (at $3 kg H2 dispensing cost – and thats not even including Capex, nor any ‘unexpected’ maintenance).

GM is a bit more truthful than TOYOTA, since according to them the original PRIUS is ‘totally electrified’ even though you can’t plug it in, and only go to the gas station.

mx
Guest
mx

It really looks like GM and FORD have already given up.
They are a stock SELL.

Bill Howland
Guest
Bill Howland

HAHA!

This sounds like a TRUMP promotion article – where Trump’s ‘Report Card’ really deserves an “F” since he’s renigged on the majority of his promises but his supporters say he’s kept, or will keep ‘the important ones’.

Early depositors for the roadster were more than a little upset that Musk raised the price of the base roadster from $89 to $109k, but the deposits remained ‘non-refundable’.

Hence the wisdom of reading any agreement for a deposit. Now me, I didn’t put down any deposit because there were inadequate protections in any agreement that something like that would transpire.

I ended up buying the $109k roadster (one of the very few stripped models ever made), but did not go for the battery warranty for similiar rationale. By that time I was quite familiar with what I was getting into, which is the way I like it.