Famed PayPal hecamillionaire and space rocket kingpin Elon Musk has issued a personal retort to the lawsuit recently mounted against him by fellow co-founder of electrocar maker Tesla Motors, Martin Eberhard.
In the lawsuit, mounted in the California superior court, Eberhard claims he has been repeatedly slandered by Musk, and that the management problems which led to significant delays and financial problems at Tesla were not his fault but Musk's. Eberhard also says that his personal electric Roadster sports car was supplied "wrecked". His lawsuit, aimed at both Musk personally and at Tesla Motors, seeks unspecified damages.
Tesla spokesmen have already issued a robust dismissal of Eberhard's suit, and the firm has indicated that it plans legal action of its own. Now, however, Musk has personally weighed in with a length blog post on the company site.
As to the suggestion by Eberhard that micromanagement by Musk had caused the cost and time issues which saw the Roadster very late to market and the company at one point perilously short of cash, Musk categorically denies this:
Eberhard has simultaneously implied that I had nothing to do with the creation of the Roadster and that I micromanaged the design and thus caused the cost overruns. Obviously, those claims are mutually exclusive...
There were several smaller items I suggested, such as the touchpad door latch that Eberhard tries to use as an excuse for why it cost over $140M to bring the Roadster to market instead of the $25M that he estimated in the 2004 business plan. That would have to be one hell of door latch!
Musk says that at the time Eberhard was asked to leave, the cost to Tesla for each Roadster was $140k just for the parts, subassemblies and supplies to make it. As the firm was selling the cars at $92k, Musk describes this as a "life threatening problem".
According to Musk, after Eberhard left, "almost every major system on the car, including the body, HVAC, motor, power electronics, transmission and battery pack, had to be redesigned, retooled or switched to a new supplier". This was first in order to get the Roadster on the road at something approaching the promised spec, then so as to cut costs so that the car could be made and sold at a profit.
At the time, it was reported that technical difficulties with the transmission were the only thing holding the Roadster back. "That did turn out to be the long pole in the schedule," says Musk, "but there were a host of other issues". He says the Roadster is only now in a condition where making and selling one actually makes Tesla any money.
Most of us will never be able to afford a Roadster, but Musk is hoping that we'll all one day benefit from the electrically-propelled future cars which may develop from it - and the possible environmental and energy-security bonuses they might bring in their train.
In the meantime, both Musk's fans and his detractors will find their existences enlivened - at no charge - by the upcoming legal wrestle in the California courts.
Musk's blog post can be read in full here. ®