Elon Musk has been embattled lately. Despite impressive recent accomplishments for Tesla and his other companies, the renaissance entrepreneur has faced criticism about self-dealing business governance and even negative press coverage of Tesla crashes.
Even before the oddity of early May’s Tesla earnings call, Elon Musk was facing negative press despite his many companies’ groundbreaking accomplishments.
We’d be surprised if you haven’t read or seen media coverage of a Tesla crash lately. There’s been quite a few.
At first glance, these tragic crashes seem like a chink in Musk and Tesla’s otherwise sturdy armor. As Elon often does, he set about responding to these situations with reasonable yet snarkily-worded excuses.
It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage https://t.co/6gD8MzD6VU
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2018
But, Musk isn’t the only one defending the Tesla’s safety qualifications. As Simon Alvarez of Teslarati points out, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Tesla Model 3 a “Superior” rating for front crash prevention and mitigation.
The Model 3 earned a “perfect score”. It underwent 12-mph and 25-mph collision avoidance tests and reduced speed before crash by 10 mph and 22 mph respectively, earning points for its Forward Collisions Warning system, and low-speed and high-speed autobrakes.
It certainly needs to be better & we work to improve it every day, but perfect is enemy of good. A system that, on balance, saves lives & reduces injuries should be released.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2018
Many of the recent news about Tesla crashes point toward “autopilot” as being a factor in the collision. This apparent flaw in the car’s design tends calls into question arguably its most advanced features — ones that underlie Musk’s vision for the future and his products’ place in it.
The driver involved in the crash Musk refers to above stated that the Autopilot function was engaged at the time of a 60-mph collision into the back of a firetruck.
Yet, the driver also admitted that she was looking at her phone at the time of the crash. Tesla pointed out that the car’s owner’s manual states that the driver must remain attentive and in control when Autopilot is engaged.
Tesla’s Used as Emergency Response Vehicles and More
Tesla has the electric car world all-a-twitter with the “rapid responder”.
Pictured above, this Model X serves as an ambulance for UMCG Ambulancezorg, a Dutch ambulance service. They revealed their modified model at Rettmobil 2018 amid releases like BMW’s own six different emergency models. Apparently, the car’s significant cargo space (88 cubic feet) allow the response team to pack a large variety of equipment.
But this isn’t the first time someone has “modded” a Tesla for unique uses.
Thanks to the next bit of Elon Musk news, use of Tesla models as emergency vehicles may increase even more.
Model X Breaks the Electric Towing Record
Yes — an all-electric car just towed a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft at 287,000 lbs.
The Tesla Model X P100D towed the massive plane for 1,000 feet down a Melbourne airport airstrip. This airplane model can weigh up to 560,000 lbs, but the Tesla’s towing capacity is just 5,500 lbs.
Some suggested that this might be a publicity stunt on behalf of the airline Qantas. But even so, an all-electric vehicle towing about 52 times its towing capacity is insane.
Qantas put out a press release to accompany the video detailing their new emissions initiative. It also highlights some perks for joint Tesla and Qantas customers.
To the average onlooker, Tesla and even SpaceX are synonymous with Elon Musk himself. Anytime we hear about a new Tesla Powerpack installation or a Falcon 9 launch, it’s easy to think “Elon just installed a Powerpack. Elon just launched a rocket into space.”
Of course, on some level that’s true, but it seems Tesla shareholders are beginning to resent the equal association between Musk and the companies for which he has a controlling share of stock.
Shareholders Still Miffed With Musk
The proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis recently advised Tesla shareholders to reconsider Tesla’s leadership. Given that the board includes Elon’s brother Kimball Musk and the CEO of Twenty-first Century Fox, some critics of Elon’s self-dealing have referred to his company’s top administration as nepotistic.
They also raised concern about private-equity investor and Tesla board member Antonio Gracias’ ties to Musk.
Another concern is the purgatory-like fate of Steve Jurvetson.
Due to allegations of sexual harassment, Jurvetson has been on a “leave” for six months. He has not served for Tesla or his own venture capital firm in that time.
But the board has not offered clues as to whether or not he will return as a board member. He also happens to be a close friend of Musk, provoking the firm’s anxiety even more.
CtW Investment Group initially pointed out the Jurvetson question last week.
CtW sent a letter to Tesla shareholders proposing the replacement of certain board members with close ties to Elon. We already mentioned two of their names: Antonio Gracias, Kimball Musk, and James Murdoch.
A vote at the upcoming June 5th annual meeting will decide if these members are replaced.
The opposition points to lack of automotive industry experience and a deferential relationship with CEO Elon Musk.
Like CtW, Glass Lewis says that the board’s hesitation with Jurvetson signals an aversion to its own realignment.
Musk owns more than 20% of Tesla shares, but Glass Lewis argues that he does not spend the majority of his time on Tesla affairs. A not well-known minority shareholder (12 shares total) named Jing Zhao also proposed that Tesla remove Elon Musk from his position as chairman.
Musk has not commented on the boardroom news on his Twitter yet, but he seems in good spirits over upcoming announcements from the Boring Company.