Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: Life Inside Tesla's Production Hell

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  • Success comes at a cost. Does Elon Musk cross the line when it comes to how he treats the people around him in pursuit of his huge aspirations?
  • The company had to move faster, Musk told his senior executives. He wanted to start production in July 2017, almost four months ahead of plan. Musk was excited by a particular notion: He had recently had a dream, people in the room recall him saying, in which he had seen the factory of the future, a fully automated manufacturing plant where robots built everything at high speed and parts moved along conveyor belts that delivered each piece, just in time, to exactly the right place. He said he had been working on such ideas for a while. “This thing will be an unstoppable alien dreadnought,” he told his colleagues, causing some of them to pull out their phones and Google the phrase.
  • A previous employee remembered Musk saying that Tesla’s goal was to save the world. “He would get really emotional,” this person told me—and that’s why he sometimes seemed callous, “because what’s one person’s feelings compared to the fate of billions? Elon cares a lot about humanity, but he doesn’t really care about individual people all that much.
  • Eric Larkin, who helped oversee factory software until he was fired in April, still feels a strong emotional and financial attachment to Tesla. He’d worked there for three years and was proud to be part of something that could reduce carbon in the atmosphere and “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy,” as the company’s mission statement puts it. “Tesla is the only company positioned to make this world a better place, to really improve the world right now,” Larkin told me. “And Tesla is Elon. How can you be bitter about humanity’s best hope?”