Visualizing The Many Failures Of Elon Musk

Elon Musk is having a rough week.

After confessing to investors and Tesla’s customers that the company had only managed to build 260 of the 1,500 Model 3 Sedans that it had promised to deliver by the end of the third quarter, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Tesla had not yet finished building the Model 3 assembly line at its Fremont, Calif, factory. Instead, factory employees have been assembling cars by hand – a highly unusual method. As one source who spoke to WSJ confirmed: “that’s not how mass production vehicles are made.”

In a tweet published just before the storm, Musk said that the Tesla semi unveil had been pushed back until November as the company diverts resources to the Model 3 and to Puerto Rico, a transparent attempt to cover his flank should the company’s “production bottlenecks” persist for longer than anticipated.

Despite effectively being caught concealing material information from investors, Musk will in all likelihood soldier on from this latest scandal, bolstered by credulous investors (and generous government subsidies). Even if Tesla continues to miss increasingly ambitious production targets that have proven to be little more than a sop to investors, Musk – already one of Silicon Valley’s most durable figures – will continue to burnish his credibility as a “tech visionary” as he mesmerizes investors with his high-minded monologues about colonizing Mars.    

But you’ve got to give the man credit – he’s overcome a not-insignificant amount of adversity during his career. Like Travis Kalanick, he’s been fired as CEO of a company he founded. He’s also survived near fatal illnesses, and famously married – and divorced – the same woman twice.

In a colorful series of infographics, MarketWatch traces the tragedies and obstacles that have befallen Musk in career spanning more than two decades.

In 2000, Musk almost died after contracting malaria while traveling to Brazil and South Africa, prompting the famous quip “Vacation will kill you.”

He’s overseen not one, but three, failed rocket launches at SpaceX.

In December 2008, both Tesla and SpaceX were on the verge of bankruptcy.

Some other more recent setbacks for Musk have included an unexpected downgrade by Morgan Stanley, and Consumer Reports lowering its ratings on Tesla’s Model S and Model X.

Of course, Musk isn’t the only tech CEO who’s faced adversity. Steve Jobs was famously ousted from Apple in 1985 and later said of that time that he was a “very public failure.”

But even when his company caught up in another scandal, we imagine Elon – shielded by the fact that Tesla shares are trading north of $350 - has developed an appreciation for taking the long view.