For years, Elon Musk paid zero dollars for traditional advertising while almost singlehandedly keeping Tesla — and himself — front and center. With a never-ending stream of tweets, television and podcast appearances and livestreamed product events, the electric-vehicle maker and its billionaire CEO dominated news cycles and occasionally went viral.
Musk was a veritable hype machine, and his knack for breaking through meant that when Tesla managed to execute, its valuation soared to a stratosphere no automaker had ever come close to reaching.
Last year, Musk was in the news like never before, albeit for problematic reasons: his offer to buy Twitter, his attempt to back out, and his sowing of chaos once he finally did take over. All the while, for three quarters in a row, Tesla under-delivered on one of the metrics that matters most: the number of electric vehicles it handed over to customers.