Elon Musk, barely a month after his behavior on an earnings call shook investor confidence, hit out on Twitter with a series of combative posts this week, leaving many scratching their heads at best and prompting scrutiny from U.S. labor regulators at worst.
The CEO of Tesla Inc., which is burning cash and struggling to overcome production issues with the mass-market electric Model 3, heaped scorn on media outlets over critical news reporting as well as alluding to picking random dates to unveil new vehicles.
"For some reason, this is the best I've felt in a while," Musk, who has built a showman reputation partly through his frank exchanges on social media, tweeted early Thursday, after his comments set off a storm of responses.
Here's a rundown of his latest tweets:
- Unveil date of the Model Y chosen at random for March 15 "because the Ides of March sounded good
- Plans website to rate media credibility possibly called Pravda, the name of the Soviet Union's official newspaper
- Blames oil companies, traditional automakers for critical news coverage
- Suggests Tesla workers who unionize might lose employee stock options, an idea that could draw scrutiny from U.S. labor regulators
Musk, 46, has previously called on true believers to help him overcome the "haters" who question Tesla's ability to usher in an electric-vehicle age on an ambitious timetable.
His recent performance on an earnings call to discuss the company's quarterly business suggested a leader under pressure. He ridiculed representatives of Wall Street's biggest banks asking for more details on how Tesla would meet promises to build more Model 3 sedans and generate cash in the second half of the year.
His latest public comments reveal his mood is still feisty. For the Model Y, Musk explained he "made up" the date to introduce the Model Y crossover on March 15, before locking it in as the official date. The Ides of March corresponds to March 15 on the Roman calendar and is infamous as the date of Julius Caesar's murder in 44 BC.
Earlier, he said he was set to "create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score of each journalist, editor & publication," adding: "Thinking of calling it Pravda." The name means truth in Russian. Plans for the site appear to have been under way since October.
He also attacked the UAW, which is trying to organize workers at Tesla's plant in Fremont, Calif. "Why pay union dues and give up stock options for nothing?" he said about workers at the plant.
The comment could draw scrutiny from the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that investigates allegations of unfair labor practices.
Wilma Liebman, who headed the agency during the Obama administration and has done legal work for the UAW, said she interpreted that as a warning the company would take away workers' stock options if they succeeded in organizing the factory.