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.


yomutti2 Bes Sun, 10/08/2017 - 21:57 Permalink

Yeah, Musk has had some embarrassing failures. That's what happens when you are in the process of accomplishing great and difficult things. Most people understand that. But the Russian mouthpieces all want to smear him beccause Spacex is going to kill the Russian launch business.Ha ha ha... suck on that, Russians. 

In reply to by Bes

D503 garypaul Mon, 10/09/2017 - 00:53 Permalink

The sole beauty of Musk's bullshit is that the child who tries to tell the investors that they have no clothes on requires a PE stamp and a master's from an Abet Accredited school. Once the child points out the lack of clothes with 10,000 pages of astm data and multiply nested related rates problems, they've already invested another 100 billion in solar powered hoverboards with self tying laces. What's the economic advantage to "reusing rockets?" Shorting Spacex.

In reply to by garypaul

Utopia Planitia yomutti2 Sun, 10/08/2017 - 23:42 Permalink

If you wish to choose to invest your money in Musky Scent then nobody is stopping you.  Apparently you fail to acknowledge that everyone who pays Federal taxes is being FORCED to support him, whether they want to or not. As a result of his POLITICAL connections. He is simply robbing the treasury (with the aid of demonrats) to fulfill his dreams.If you want to worship him nobody is stopping you from doing that either.  But you don't get to FORCE me to join you.If his ideas are that great would't the private money come rolling after him?  I still don't hear you offering up yours...

In reply to by yomutti2

Freddie youarelost Sun, 10/08/2017 - 22:19 Permalink

Assembling Model 3's by hand? I have a relative who works for arguably the most profitable vehicle car company and at their biggest plant.  Mass production of cars is serious and complex shit.The model 3 is a $50 k car not a $35K car.  You cannot hand assemble a car you are already losing $15 K a unit or so on.  Insanity.Musk is alsdo a douhebag for wrecking a McLaren F1, one of the most amazing cars ever made.  It has a BMW V-12. 

In reply to by youarelost

Arrest Hillary Sun, 10/08/2017 - 21:08 Permalink

We don't re-use condoms .... why would we re-use rockets .... we need disposable launch vehicles .... like the Russian kerosene machine .... we don't re-use tampons ?

D503 garypaul Mon, 10/09/2017 - 02:23 Permalink

The innovation was clearly paying engineers 15% less on average, hiring out H1b's whenever possible, convincing undergrads to hand over their data for free, convincing the US government to hand over all of NASA's research, and completely fabricating the truth so investors would btfd. Musk could promise his sycophants they were getting a blow job and they would cum in their pants on the spot.

In reply to by garypaul

Storm-Clouds Sun, 10/08/2017 - 21:20 Permalink

The dead don’t care.....

Either does Musk.

For that matter either did P.T. Barnum...aka “there is a sucker born every minute.”

The USA taxpayers are suckers as are the Musk bond holders.

The Musk protection team will down vote the truth.

But the dead don’t care.....

SerfsUp Sun, 10/08/2017 - 21:27 Permalink

Failure would be all fine as part of being an entrepreneur.  The problem is he's failing with taxpayer $$ and running these unprofitable companies with taxpayer $$.  The reason Tesla has such a high share value is because his company has limited downside due to taxpayer subsidy.  He effectively runs a Chinese communist style state-owned enterprise. 

JuliaS SerfsUp Sun, 10/08/2017 - 23:53 Permalink

Indeed. Too much focus on rocket crashes also. Russians have denied him the purchase of rockets? Well, under what circumstances exactly? Russians don't care as long as the money is there. If they said no, that means the offer didn't match expectations.And how many rocket launches went fine on the first try? Germany kept crashing V1 series rockets one after another before they finally got them to fly and even then, the hit ratio was laughable. Russians - when they tried beating us to the moon were experimenting with different propulsion designs - many small engines instead of 5 big ones. Those things kept exploding one after another up until the point where the entire program had to shut down. The cost of one such crash would equal to all of musk's failures combined if this was done in America. And how many people did SpaceX crashes kill?Russians had hundreds of casualties. Yuri Gagarin represented the first successful trip into outer space, but it was actually the 4th try. One preceding crash killed the cosmonaut because the landing system of the capsule malfunctioned. A crash before that one had the rocked fall back near the launch center, killing 125 people.What about our own Shuttle program?I completely agree - failure is unavoidable and it is part of running a business. As long as you don't make the same mistake twice - you're probably doing it right.But when you use taxpayers to cover up for your mistakes - then it's a whole different story.As I always say - Musk often gets compared to Tony Stark and I agree. They're both fictional billionaires.

In reply to by SerfsUp

honestann Sun, 10/08/2017 - 21:32 Permalink

Interesting information about Elon.However, it does seem a bit one-sided, no?Such utterly one-sided reporting is highly disingenuous.I'm not an Elon Musk fan, but I'm even less a fan of propaganda.What's this doing on ZH, anyway?

Cutter honestann Sun, 10/08/2017 - 21:50 Permalink

Agree.  If you list his failures, you must list his successes.  Overcame a difficult childhood.  Made himself rich, beyond imagination, from nothing.  Helped create an incredible company in Paypal.  Started an incredibly inovative rocket company that has done things not even governments accomplished.  And Tesla's are amazing machines, even if the company is not worth its current valuation.And most importantly, the guy is an idealist, who wants to make the world a better place.  He is a unique personality, but despite his riches he hasn't lost his idealism.He has plenty of faults, don't we all, but you have to admire his tenacity, drive, and idealism.

In reply to by honestann