Elon Musk was speechless.
The Twitter CEO was on a live audio chat Tuesday night with software engineers when one user started quizzing him about the internal workings of the company’s systems. Musk, who hours earlier said he would keep control of Twitter’s software systems even though he plans to relinquish the CEO role, said the company’s code needed a complete rewrite. One of the participants asked what he meant — pushing for him to explain it from top to bottom.
“Amazing, wow,” Musk said after hesitations and pauses. “You’re a jackass. … What a moron.”
The incident highlights the new reality facing Musk, who also runs Tesla and SpaceX: a crisis of confidence in his once-unquestioned brilliance.
That crisis accelerated as Tesla stock prices plunged nearly 20 percent this week to $123 per share on Friday, largely due to concerns about Musk. Also this week, roughly 58 percent of 17 million Twitter accounts that responded to an unscientific poll from Musk said he should step down as Twitter CEO, after helping create, then reverse new policies that proved controversial last weekend.
“Historically he’s been a pendulum between genius and reckless,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures. “He’s on reckless right now. He’s way over recklessness.”
He added, “It leaves people to view him … as slightly less of a genius.” [Continue reading…]
Not long ago, Tesla’s electric vehicles were far and away the best on the market. If you wanted a stylish, long-range, easy-to-charge and feature-packed E.V., Elon Musk would be your most likely supplier — even if you hated his guts.
But not anymore. In the past year I test drove many fantastic new E.V.s that hit the market in 2021 and 2022 — cheap ones, expensive ones, big ones, small ones, strange ones, boring ones. Ford’s F-150 Lightning, the electric version of the longtime best-selling vehicle in America, and its Mustang were terrific inside and out — nicely designed, roomy and fun to drive. The Kia EV-6’s striking, futuristic exterior had strangers stopping me to ask what cool ride I was driving. There are also great models by Chevy, Mercedes and Rivian. Although I liked the Teslas I drove — the uber-expensive Model S Plaid, which can launch from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in about two seconds, was terrific fun — the truth is that many of the best electric wheels on the market today are not made by Musk.
The new competition makes Musk’s recent role as the town crier for the redpilled online right especially puzzling and, for his car company, perilous. Musk’s chaotic and polarizing tenure as Twitter’s chief executive — during which he’s embraced far-right tropes about gender and journalism and public health, and generally behaved like a rich bully on a power trip — already seems to be battering Tesla’s brand. The Wall Street Journal reported last month on a survey by Morning Consult showing that perceptions of Tesla have been falling steadily since May, shortly after Musk began his bid for Twitter; between October and November, the period when Musk took ownership of Twitter, sentiment among Democrats toward Tesla plummeted, while favorability among Republicans rose slightly.
“He’s talking people out of buying cars that they want to buy,” Ross Gerber, the C.E.O. of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management, told me.
Gerber, whose firm holds shares of Twitter and Tesla, has been needling Musk on Twitter over Tesla’s terrible stock-market performance this year, which Gerber says is due almost entirely to Musk’s focus on Twitter and his overt embrace of partisan politics. Tesla’s sales and profits remain strong, its production capacity keeps ramping up, and it’s likely to benefit greatly from clean-vehicle tax credits passed in the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed in August. But its success could get sidelined by Musk’s tweets.
“I don’t care if you’re selling pizza or popcorn or whatever you sell — getting into politics with customers never wins,” Gerber said. [Continue reading…]