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Through my research over Elon Musk and his outstanding company called Tesla Motors Incorporated, I have found many sides of Elon’s personality. With his brilliant mind and outstanding creation, he has generated an interesting ego that has come to the attention of the public. From nasty twitter comments, to bold statements to the Traffic Safety Administration, Tesla has shown both sides of its competitive nature. One side shows its care for quality and safety, while the other side shows a much more abrasive and egotistical nature. Through the course of my research I have been able to link Tesla’s communication with several case studies that our class studied throughout the semester.
The first article That I have found to be useful was the Twitter incident involving Elon Musk and the founder of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos. In this Forbes article, Jeff Bezos announces that Blue Origin successfully launched the New Shepard capsule with a suborbital flight successfully completed. Blue Origin is a company that specializes in space discovery with reusable spaceflight technology. In other words, Elon Musk and his special idea for the Tesla Model S, has no relation to Jeff Bezos and his new accomplishments. With that being said, there were several tweets from Musk, as he trolls the web trying to get the point across to Jeff (or anybody who follows him) that Jeff was wrongfully claiming credit for the first time accomplishing this feat. Musk began knocking Blue Origin down a peg as he began defining what it means to “orbit” in space verses just launching into space. He also described the differences between getting to space, which is what he is claiming Bezos did, and getting to orbit. By using scientific findings and mathematical problem solving to show the public how Bezos was wrong about his tweet. The reason I stopped on this article during my research, is because whether he likes it or not, Musk is communicating with the public through Twitter. In this situation, he is trolling and being unprofessional with his words and opinions about an irrelevant space exploration company. There might be a level of understanding if this was towards someone who was a competing business, but the fact that there were no ties to this company shows his immaturity on the internet.
A different scenario that Tesla came across on its journey to success as a luxury car company has shown a different side of Elon Musk and his people. In recent news, a Tesla Model S owner in Europe reported that a front passenger seat belt physically separated from the seat. After checking thousands of vehicles in the factory, Tesla was certain that this was not their fault. Despite their evidence that this finding was rare and not a standard result for other Tesla vehicles, they decided to issue a voluntary recall for all Tesla owners. Tesla went on record stating this to be a proactive precautionary measure. Much like The Tylenol case study where Tylenol recalled 100% of their product in order to save any dangerous pills from reaching the mouths of the customers they serve, Tesla is making a recall that wasn’t absolutely required, in order to avoid putting their customer’s in danger. When Tylenol found out about their medicine being unsafe, they made a decision that would cost them millions of dollars and save their reputation and trustworthiness in the long haul. To hold a voluntary recall for all Model S owners just shows that Tesla cares about people. Along with their offer for a voluntary recall, they provided an interesting alternative for any owners that are far from a Tesla repair shop. Musk and his staff educated the owners on how to perform a “Do It Yourself” test on the seatbelt. By applying approximately 80 pounds of pressure by pulling in the waste section of the seatbelt, any faults would be indicated by that point. For the people who were not confident in their safety in a Tesla car, a visit from the Tesla Service Ranger would be required. The reason Tesla does not have any traditional brick-and-mortar repair shops for their vehicle is because Elon Musk is famously opposed to the concept of franchises for efficiency and customer service reasons. This service would be very expensive for Tesla, costing them man hours, as well as any flights required to reach all seven thousand and two hundred people that have long trips to fix their seatbelts. Much like the Tylenol case, Tesla is willing to cut into their pockets with Millions of dollars in costs in order to do the right thing. According to the estimates that Tesla provided, it could cost them a total of $13 million if a physical recall was needed.
Tesla’s Model X sport utility vehicle has finally provided pricing availabilities on the Tesla web page. The reason these spectacular cars are not being pushed into advertising is because of their built-to-order nature that has left them behind schedule on their delivery status. Unlike every other car company, Tesla does not keep a large inventory of their product, but rather they build cars as they are ordered, to give each one a specialized look and feel. Tesla is facing the reality that it has nothing to sell to people who go on their website today or anytime soon. Although this might seem like a good problem to have with a car company selling all its product this fast, it has its downfalls also. This long order backlog reflects more than 25,000 orders that have already been placed around the world, with deposits of $5,000 or more (refundable) indicating strong interest in the vehicle. When the timeline first came out for this new SUV, early shipments would come in 2013. After being over two years late, Tesla is needing to respond to many impatient buyers. The initial blame was put on getting more Model S vehicles out to the public. Eventually Elon Musk talked about making sure the vehicle met expectations before releasing it. This quote spoke loudly to me. With two years’ worth of cars to make, Elon is steadily telling the public that it is more about quality than getting the model X out timely. In this instance, Tesla is communicating to the public their concerns and the reasons for their backlog. This shows maturity and responsibility in their product. It would be much more ideal if they were not two years behind on their orders, but this is much better than having cars being made quickly and having all sorts of problems with each vehicle.
My last bit of research exemplifies the personality that Elon Musk has, backed by his ego. In recent news about the battery fires that were occurring inside of many Tesla vehicles across the world, Elon Musk stridently insists that this news is being blown way out of proportion. Although the Author of this news article claims he may be right about this, claiming this to the public is a poor public relations strategy. During this battery fire issue, Musk has been chafing the regulators of traffic and safety who will be deciding the fate of the Tesla Model S. Although Tesla has made a pristine name for itself over the past few years while breaking all of the car industry rules, this recent spat over the social media, spearheaded by Musk, has given Tesla a poor and prickly name for public relations. With Musk being on fire and heated about this issue in a defensive manner over Twitter and other social media fronts to many critics makes me think back to the OXO case study where similar things happened. In this article it is clear that Musk made certain claims requesting that the NHTSA (Regulators with Tesla’s fate in their hands) provide an inspection to prove the all clear symbol for this vehicle. This was outrageous in the sense that this is not something that car companies do. The NHTSA was rubbed the wrong way in this sense, and was not happy to hear this in the news. What was also startling was the response that the NHTSA gave, stating that they never received this request from Tesla, and that an inspection was already underway several days prior to the claimed request that Musk made. The Administrator of the NHTSA stated “In my time as administrator and my time as oversight counsel, I’ve never heard of an automaker formally requesting an investigation,” Strickland said. It would be unprecedented and he adds that he doesn’t think this probably happened in this case. The interesting part about this case, was that in most cases this would be the point where auto executives would back down and accept defeat. This is not the case for the proud Elon musk. Gearing away from any traditional ways of business, Musk does not back down from this situation. As Musk continues to mix up his timeline with the fact from NHTSA, more and more questions begin to come up. This case is a perfect example of how pride can fog the decisions of a business executive.
Tesla and Elon Musk has done many things right to get into the top position of luxury car company, but there were also a few things done improperly. With the right decisions made, a company can really create a name for itself to the public very easily. However, with the wrong moves, companies can portray a very abrasive and careless personality that can turn away business. I believe Tesla has done both good and bad for their reputation as an electric car company that is hoping to create a healthier and more innovative way to transport from place to place than typical gas guzzling cars. Their product speaks loudly to me and the rest of the public, but there are a few things that Elon Musk has done to speak volumes about his ego and cocky personality. It will be very interesting to see what the future holds for this car company.
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