A Method to Musk’s Madness

Tesla shareholders should think hard before denying their visionary CEO what he asks, only to let activists possibly dominate down the road.
A Method to Musk’s Madness
X CEO Elon Musk leaves a U.S. Senate bipartisan Artificial Intelligence Insight Forum at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Sept. 13, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Thomas McArdle
World’s richest billionaire and Twitter/X impresario Elon Musk threatened to slam on the brakes on his corporate lovechild, the electric vehicle pioneer Tesla, unless he was given a much bigger stake in the control he sold off to be able to buy the social media giant. That elicited the charge from big Tesla investor Ross Gerber of Gerber Kawasaki that Mr. Musk was “delusional,” since he still “fully controls the board.”

But when it comes to divining the decisions of an eccentric entrepreneurial genius such as Mr. Musk, one must take care not to miss seeing the batteries for the charging stations.

The two matters at hand in this latest self-engineered controversy of Mr. Musk’s, electric vehicles (EV) and artificial intelligence (AI), are both steeped in ideology. And the PayPal and SpaceX founder has made it clear in recent years what a threat he judges the left-wing fanaticism that has engulfed government and business all over the world to be—enough that he was willing to put $44 billion of his money where his mouth was to purchase the world’s most influential political communications online platform.

“I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in AI & robotics without having ~25% voting control,” Mr. Musk wrote on X on Jan. 15. “Enough to be influential, but not so much that I can’t be overturned. Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla.”
In Tesla’s earnings call on Jan. 24, Mr. Musk was concerned that without more control, he “could sort of be voted out by some sort of random shareholder advisory firm.” He cited interference from the green-dominated proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services, or ISS.

“I call them ISIS,” Mr. Musk quipped, asserting that “there’s a lot of activists that basically infiltrate those organizations and have, you know, strange ideas about what should be done.”

Tesla is engulfed in the maelstrom between governments across the globe inflicting EVs on car purchasers in the name of saving the planet and the drivers’ rebellion against the exorbitant price tags and nightmare repair scenarios of the politically correct means of transport.
Tesla stock was down by nearly 16.5 percent in January, suffering five consecutive weeks of decline, including a 3 percent drop in the third week of January, before going into freefall on Jan. 25, set to lose tens of billions in valuation. Its performance versus the S&P 500 is at its worst since late May of last year. Before Jan. 25, analysts had already forecast an earnings per share of $3.63 this year, far below the $5.65 of a year ago.
Mr. Musk promises a mid-2025 production of “our next-generation low-cost vehicle” for the mass market, to be built in Texas, but he provided precious few details. The EV manufacturer this month also began the roll out of its FSD Beta Version 12 driver-assistance software, but this advancement is still “Level 2,” which means a driver must be in the driver’s seat monitoring all tasks and be ready to take full control at any time.
During the Jan. 24 call, Mr. Musk also remarked, “Frankly, I think, if there are not trade barriers established,” communist China’s heavily subsidized EV industry “will pretty much demolish most other companies in the world.” He previously characterized firms such as BYD, Nio, and Xpeng as “the most competitive car companies in the world.”
Perhaps most significantly, eyes were opened from the electric dreams of rendering fossil-fueled vehicles obsolete when Hertz, after having committed to making 25 percent-plus of its cars be EVs by the end of 2024, announced last month that it would be selling about 20,000 of its EVs, the vast majority of them Teslas, amid weakening demand.
It’s hardly a surprise that the rental giant would turn back toward gasoline; Hertz’s hard-won image, exemplified by its O.J. Simpson commercials of decades ago, is as “The Superstar of Rent-a-Car” with “super speed.” Sitting and waiting for your car to charge isn’t very super.

Were it not for Mr. Musk’s acumen, America might not even have a competitive EV car industry worth speaking of as it faces China’s artificially inflated economic threat in the sector. Going forward, as the Biden administration and other fanatics, such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom, try to make the internal combustion engine illegal within little more than a decade, we should want the likes of Mr. Musk in charge, not the green extremists.

After all, Mr. Musk cautions against the demonization of oil, recognizes that “civilization will crumble” absent the continued drilling for fossil fuels, knows that transitioning to alternative energies will take decades, and supports expanded use of nuclear power. With Tesla’s “Autopilot” self-driving technology so dependent on AI, Mr. Musk also understands the dangers of the science that’s likely to add many billions to his already astronomical fortune.
“We’re not stronger or faster than other creatures but we are more intelligent, and here we are for the first time, really in human history, with something that’s going to be far more intelligent than us,” he said at a summit on AI safety in London in November 2023. “It’s not clear to me if we can control such a thing, but I think we can aspire to guide it in a direction that’s beneficial to humanity.”
The potentially exponential self-improving nature of AI is one of its most unpredictable hazards.

Tesla shareholders should think hard before denying their visionary CEO what he asks, only to let activists possibly dominate down the road. With the firm currently suffering the consequences of environmentalist extremism, they should look back at Elon Musk’s record of prescience and courage in bucking prevailing notions.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Thomas McArdle was a White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush and writes for IssuesInsights.com
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