- Elon Musk was known to yell at NHTSA officials about Tesla’s safety concerns, The Washington Post reported.
- Former managers said they developed a strategy to work with the CEO and prompt recalls.
- Former Tesla employees have cited incidents where Musk lost his temper in the past.
Former auto safety officials told The Washington Post that some conversations with Tesla CEO Elon Musk about safety issues and recalls turned into “screaming matches.”
A former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety official, who spoke anonymously, told the publication that Musk shouted and threatened to sue when the agency told Tesla that It was opening an investigation into the automaker in 2016. The investigation came after a Tesla that was on autopilot crashed into a tractor-trailer and killed the driver.
Since then, NHTSA has launched dozens of investigations into Tesla’s crashes. Former officials said Tesla’s high valuation, along with Musk’s status as the world’s richest man, made it harder to induce the automaker to issue fines. Several former NHTSA safety officials told the Post that the regulator had done anything more flattering to threaten Tesla and Musk to get the automaker to comply with the recalls.
Tesla has issued several voluntary recalls in recent months. More recently, Tesla recalled about 947 of its vehicles last week due to a lag in the electric cars’ rear-view mirror image display.
A spokesperson for NHTSA declined to comment when contacted by Insider. Musk and a Tesla spokesperson also did not respond to a request for comment. However, Musk told the Post to pass his “greetings to your puppeteer,” a reference to Jeff Bezos’ ownership of the publication, and took the opportunity to criticize the outlet’s paywall in his statement on the matter.
Reports of Musk’s outbursts by security officials echo the stories of former executives at his companies. Last year, the Wall Street Journal’s Tim Higgins wrote a book that sheds light on alleged cases where the CEO showed a short fuse. In the book “Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Gamble of the Century”, Higgins said that Musk had developed an atmosphere of fear in Tesla and SpaceX through his explosions.
The book alleged the CEO blasted at executives and hourly workers, including a 2010 incident when Musk allegedly yelled at a Tesla meeting focused on the automaker’s upcoming public offering.
“I don’t have time for this,” Musk reportedly shouted as he stormed out of the meeting. “I have to launch the f—— rocket!”
Musk disputed some of the claims in the book and called them “fake” on Twitter. Last year, Musk denied claims he fired employees, saying he was giving “clear and candid” comments.
Ultimately, safety officials expressed concern about the future of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software, according to The Post. Tesla’s pursuit of the new frontier of self-driving means NHTSA must work more closely with Musk and the automaker than ever before. The program, which promises autonomous driving, is currently in beta mode and still requires a licensed driver to monitor the vehicle.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s Autopilot software – which allows a car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically in its lane – has been implicated in dozens of crashes and at least three deaths since 2016.
Despite the crashes, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly said Teslas are much safer than their competitors. There are also plenty of videos online showing Tesla’s safety features that help prevent accidents.
Read the Washington Post’s full story on its website.