The publicity hungry Elon Musk has won copious quantities of media coverage following the launch of the Tesla pickup truck – a vehicle dubbed the ‘Cybertruck’. Even a public gaffe at the Cybertruck launch does not appear to have dampened enthusiasm among supporters. Yet the share price sank 6% following the reveal largely because of physical appearance of the pickup, and that should concern the board of the company.
In key areas the new Tesla is reported to perform better than leading pickups in the United States, suggesting the share price should have risen, not declined. What Tesla needed was a conventional looking design but which contained the market leading electric technology the company has become famous for. Elon Musk stepping back from day-to-day control of the company would help to avoid these problems. A CEO with a greater focus on the immediate business needs of Tesla, rather than a grand vision, would have been able to take advantage of the Tesla market position and create a new product able to garner the positive first impressions previous models have attracted.
Investors in Tesla recently saw Elon Musk in court regarding claims the entrepreneur and the Tesla board merged the company with SolarCity for the sake of personal financial gain. The deal with SolarCity cost Tesla $2.6bn at a time when Musk was racing to put the Model 3 car into mass production. As a result of the structure put in place, much of the business empire Musk had created by 2016 suddenly became dependent on the saving of a company that not many Tesla customers were likely to have heard about. Worse still, the company was losing ground to competitors in the solar panel industry. Even in 2016 the need to behave like an established company in terms of product development and long-term strategy had been clear for a while.