Elon Musk Has a Surprising Achilles Heel

The Tesla CEO has a bombastic style which scares his critics, but a topic makes him vulnerable.

Elon Musk has built a reputation as a maverick. 

He has this bombastic side which sends this message to his fans and especially to his opponents: he fears nothing.

They should expect him to strike back when they attack him. And rarely does he play defense. When he feels cornered, he is ready to use dirty tricks, as was the case with his billionaire peer Bill Gates last May. 

The CEO of Tesla  (TSLA) – Get Free Report and Twitter  (TWTR) – Get Free Report did not hesitate to use a cruel image to depict the co-founder of Microsoft, because the latter had dared to bet against the manufacturer of premium electric vehicles.

Did Musk Found Tesla?

Musk has thus built an image of a billionaire CEO who does not let himself be outdone. His social media spats with elected Democrats, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, aka AOC, are legendary. 

But there is one topic where the Techno King loses his cool and is often on the defensive. It’s as if he feels the need to justify himself, to prove something. And that subject is the question of who founded Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer that transformed automobiles and changed the way consumers perceive cars today.

He has just demonstrated once again that this topic is his vulnerability. It all started with a post on Twitter from one of his fans, criticizing an article which argued that Musk was not the founder of Tesla, but simply a financier or an investor. According to the article, the real founders are Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard.

“This is so misleading,” the Twitter user tweeted at Musk with a link to the article. “@elonmusk invested nearly all of the Series A round. At that point, Tesla was just a name & 3 guys with no money who’d registered the company 6 months earlier.”

And unsurprisingly, Musk was quick to react.

“More importantly, I was head of product and led the design of the original Roadster,” the billionaire said, referring to the very first vehicle produced by Tesla. “Eberhard was wealthy and could have risked his money, but was unwilling to do so.”

He didn’t stop there: “ArtCenter College of Design gave me an honorary degree for my work on the original Tesla Roadster.”

His need to convince that he was one of the founders of the vehicle manufacturer continued.

“Was also due to me that we got trademark to use Tesla Motors as initial name & later obtained http://Tesla.com URL.”

The Old Testament

This is the umpteenth time that Musk finds himself defending his role in the creation of Tesla. He had already done so last April. At the time, he went so far as to use the painting “Judgement of Solomon”, by the French painter Nicolas Poussin, to drive the point that he’s the real founder of Tesla. “Judgement of Solomon” illustrates a dramatic story of biblical inspiration from the Old Testament (I Kings 3: 16-28). 

Tesla was founded in 2003 by a group of engineers who wanted to prove that people didn’t need to compromise in order to drive electric vehicles — that electric vehicles could be better, quicker and more fun to drive than gasoline cars, the company says on its website, without naming the “engineers.”

While no one disputes what Musk did with Tesla, it must be recognized that the original founders of the automotive group are Martin Eberhard and his friend and business partner, Marc Tarpenning.

It is speculated that Eberhard’s passion for sports cars led to the birth of Tesla. He is said to have asked AC Propulsion to manufacture a vehicle with lithium-ion cells, instead of lead-acid batteries. He wanted an electric sports vehicle but there was none. This later led to the Tesla Roadster. 

But Eberhard was fired from Tesla in November 2007 and replaced by Musk. When he left, the Model S sedan was in an early stage. The company now has four models — the Model S sedan, Model 3 sedan, Model X SUV and Model Y SUV. On December 1, Tesla will deliver its first fully Semi truck, which will become its fifth model.

Eberhard filed a lawsuit against Tesla and Musk in May 2009, challenging the billionaire’s right to call himself the founder of Tesla. 

A settlement among the parties was reached in September 2009. According to the settlement, the details of which remain confidential, Eberhard and Musk co-founded Tesla with three other people — J.B. Straubel, Marc Tarpenning and Ian Wright. Except for Musk, the other four have left the company.

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