Stop Trashing Tesla

The injunction above is aimed at the two entities currently doing the most damage to the image and reputation of the innovative EV maker: The New York Times, and Mr. Elon Musk. Tesla has taken some major hits lately, and both the Times and Musk seem determined to intensify the damage.

Let’s begin with the Times. For well over a year now (actually, it’s probably longer), the Times has featured negative coverage of Tesla or Musk or both, on an almost-daily basis.

Tesla's Model Y became the world's best-selling car in 2023. Photo:
Tesla’s Model Y became the world’s best-selling car in 2023. Photo:

Here are some recent examples of the paper’s anti-Tesla coverage from just the past two weeks:

– Tesla Fires Many on Charger Team, Raising Doubts About Expansion (April 30)
– That Strange Piece of Metal Origami Embodies All of Elon Musk’s Flaws (April 30)
– Tesla’s Dangerous Course (April 29)
– Auto Safety Regulator Investigating Tesla Recall of Autopilot (April 26)
– Tesla’s Flop Era (podcast, April 26)
– Has Tesla Peaked? (April 16)
– E.V. Sales Are Slowing. Tesla’s Are Slumping (April 15)
– Tesla Will Lay Off More Than 10% of Workers (April 15)

Granted, some of this coverage is legitimate—the layoffs, the declining sales, the inexplicable removal of most of Tesla’s Supercharger team. Even in those cases, though, the negative coverage is accentuated. The rest of the stories are consistently slanted and/or speculative.

We have few complaints about negative Musk coverage—he deserves it. From the end of 2021, when Musk moved Tesla HQ from California to Texas, his management of the company has sent it on a downhill slide.

– Musk’s right-wing turn has alienated many of his original customers, who tend toward the other side of the political spectrum
– His constant price-juggling over the past year has dented Tesla’s prestige
– His mass, “hard-core” layoffs—particularly the layoff of the Supercharger team—are wrong-headed and extremely damaging
– His distraction by “X,” by SpaceX, and (especially) by politics has hurt the day-to-day operations of the company

Musk does deserve credit for driving Tesla to become the world’s most valuable car company, and for leading the way on EVs in general. He also deserves credit for the vital role SpaceX plays today. But his recent performance threatens Tesla’s continued well-being. As Bill Russo, an EV consultant in Shanghai notes, Tesla is the only strong American contender in EVs. “If they ever died,” Russo said, “the whole EV market dies with it in the United States.” (New York Times, “China’s Electric Cars Keep Improving, a Worry for Rivals Elsewhere,” May 1, 2024.)

Musk did not found Tesla, although he launched a lawsuit that eventually allowed him to claim this was so. (The company was actually founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning.) Musk did lead Tesla into a very strong position, but it’s a position he is now rapidly squandering. It’s time for him to go.

Tesla’s Musk-controlled board doesn’t think so, though. They want to overrule a Delaware judge and award him a payment package worth at least $55 billion. They plan on asking shareholders to OK this. Obviously, it should not happen.

We don’t know exactly how Musk can be separated from Tesla, but separated he must be. If Tesla doesn’t somehow transition to the responsible, uncontroversial and forward-looking management it deserves, its future looks bleak.