By Mona Salama
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had a tough year, telling the New York Times in a recent interview that he is physically exhausted and emotionally drained. That is expected to happen to a person that has lofty ambitions and is supposedly working 120 hours a week only to consistently fail in delivering what he promised. Today, however, prominent figures are ignoring the most troubling aspects of his companies, instead opting to use his lack of sleep as an excuse for his egregious shortfalls.
For example, Arianna Huffington, a co-founder of the Huffington Post, wrote an open letter to Tesla CEO attempting to rationalize that as a “data-driven person,” Musk should recognize that his sleep deficiency is destroying his revolutionary vision. Both aspects of Huffington’s self-diagnosis are wrong. While it is true that people can’t function without sleep, exhaustion is the least of Musk’s problems. For the past three years, the self-interested billionaire has had fundamental operational issues that have seemingly been caused by a complete lack of concern for empirical data and quality control.
Since emerging into the business world and tech industry, Musk has created a tech empire worth over $19 billion, which involves making electric cars, manufacturing space rockets, and investing in solar energy. Every single one of Musk’s risk ventures has had major problems, be it missed deadlines, launch delays, reliability concerns, or negative profit margins. Despite his resume being littered with failure, government appropriators and some a handful of investors continue to overlook it all, banking it all on Musk’s long-term unrealistic vision.
In the beginning of the year, Musk said 2018 would be a “transformative year,” but it has instead become one accompanied by a series of whirlwind problems. Among the issues for Tesla, the car company that burns over $2 billion a year, include a fatal self-driving Tesla Model X fatal crash, followed by the company’s credit rating and outlook being downgraded to B3 and negative, to the company’s massive recall of its Model S sedans that caused its stock valuation to plunge. No one can say with a straight face that these glaring functional problems would be solved with a little more rest.
Things appeared to pick up for Musk at the end of June when the company finally hit its production goal of 5,000 for Model 3s, but this small light of optimism was quickly extinguished when reports showed that 4,300 of them needed rework caused by human “failed manual task” as well as cosmetic issues. If Elon Musk is as data driven as Huffington makes him out to be, he wouldn’t have a first pass yield that’s approximately 65 percent lower than the auto industry average.
If you think Musk only has problems with his baby Tesla, guess again. Musk has just as many efficiency problems with SpaceX as he does with Tesla. In 2015, a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded just minutes after launching, costing NASA over $110 million to replace the destroyed cargo load. Musk pointed fingers by blaming the supplier as the primary cause of the explosion, but NASA recently released a report blaming SpaceX for the explosion,citing SpaceX using lower-grade part without adequate screening. The following year, a launchpad explosion destroyed an Israeli commercial satellite worth $250 million. In 2017, SpaceX Merlin rocket engine blew up at a testing facility.
The so-called data-driven Musk also says that his reusable rockets will save taxpayers boatloads annually, but his Block 4 rockets appear to have been used a maximum of two times, over 10 times less than what appears necessary to make them cost-effective. A NASA audit from this year also showedthat “SpaceX’s average pricing per kilogram will increase approximately 50 percent” under NASA’s CRS-2 plan.
Arianna Huffington is wrong. The overgrowing problem of Musk acting irresponsibly while disregarding public safety interests is not caused from the CEO not sleeping enough; it stems from Musk’s disregard for reality and lack of attention to detail. With his companies plagued with problems from missed deadlines, credit downgrades, high debt, recalls, explosions, and crashes, it is laughable to characterize Musk as a data driven person as Huffington does. If he were, Musk wouldn’t continue to disregard industry standards and empirical evidence by making promises that he continually breaks.
The federal government should follow Wall Street’s lead by holding Musk accountable for this total disregard for responsibility sooner rather than later.
Mona Salama is a political analyst, fashion influencer, and freelance author. She previously worked as a reporter for Breitbart News.
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