Interview with Edward Niedermeyer on “Ludicrous” Stories About Tesla & Toyota and His Book


My guest for Episode #345 is Edward Niedermeyer, author of the newly released book Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. It's available now through Amazon and other booksellers.

Ed is currently the Senior Editor of Mobility Technology at The Drive. He was previously the editor-in-chief for the site The Truth About Cars. He's also one of the hosts of the Autonocast podcast about autonomous vehicle technology.

In the episode, Ed and I talk about his thoughts on Toyota as somebody who has covered the automotive industry for over a decade. While his book has a lot of interesting details and stories about Tesla and Elon Musk (for example, I learned that Elon was not a founder), we focus mainly on the failed relationship between Tesla and Toyota.

We also touch on the dynamics that lead to somebody who criticizes a company being labeled a “hater.” It's interesting, perhaps, because Ed and I both want Tesla to succeed. Constructive criticism shouldn't be interpreted as wanting an organization to fail — and that sometimes happens to people inside of different organizations, as well.

This is a long discussion, at about 75 minutes, but I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. You can also read a transcript, below.

  • Edward's LinkedIn page
  • Twitter @Tweetermeyer
  • When you started covering the auto industry (2008), what were your perceptions of Toyota compared to the competition — when it comes to business results, quality, their management system?
    • “Culture is the only thing that can hold it all together”
  • Toyota was a major investor in Tesla — what could have been a pivot point for Tesla if that relationship had gone differently?
    • Tesla is hell-bent on doing it their way? First time a Silicon Valley culture brought into the auto industry… speed, move fast break things… hubris, really smart
  • Where's the right balance between responsiveness (to customer tweets) vs. planning and engineering?
  • What did Akio Toyoda hope to learn from Tesla?
    • Akio had fear of “Big company disease” — Tesla = “enterprise culture” and wanted Toyota to learn from that — culture clash, arrogance from both companies (from Toyota sources)
  • Do you know why the relationship between Tesla and Toyota fell apart after the investment and product collaboration?
    • Culture clash? From day 1 and the announcement. Toyota wanted to learn from Tesla, but Tesla didn't appreciate the opportunity to learn. Internal criticism is not welcomed even.
  • Why did Tesla deviate from its initial strategy of being a “fabless automaker”?
    • Ambivalence about manufacturing?
  • You wrote about a flaw in Tesla's plan to start with expensive cars and then keep moving down market. What mistakes have they made related to quality, process, and management style? What's the impact?
  • What led to you writing your book Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors?? Why write it? — what makes it “unvarnished? Are you “Out to get Tesla?” 
  • Twitter comments — Why do you (and others who write critical things about Tesla) get labeled as “haters” — or there's an assumption you “hate Tesla” or have a short position in the stock? 
  • Using NDAs to cover up quality problems – NHTSA said it's unacceptable practice
  • How do you vet the stories that go into a book like this? How do you “quality control” the book to make sure there aren't stories made up by people who have a grudge against Tesla for some reason?

Thanks for listening!

Listen to the podcast here

Edward Niedermeyer (@Tweetermeyer) On “Ludicrous” Stories About Tesla & Toyota

LBI Edward Niedermeyer | Tesla

Welcome to Episode 345. It is August 12th, 2019. My guest is Edward Niedermeyer. He is the author of the book titled, Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. That is why the title for this episode talks about ludicrous stories about Tesla and Toyota. Ed is the Senior Editor of Mobility Technology at The Drive. He was previously the Editor-in-Chief for the site The Truth About Cars. He is also one of the hosts of a podcast called Autonocast, which is about autonomous vehicle technology.

In the episode here, Ed and I will talk about his thoughts on Toyota as somebody who covered the auto industry for over a decade. His book has a lot of interesting details and stories about Tesla and Elon Musk. We focus mainly on the failed relationship between Tesla and Toyota. We will talk about some of the differences in the corporate culture. Even though it is not strictly Lean-related, we also talk about the dynamics that lead to somebody who criticizes a company being labeled a hater or worse.

There are applications to what happens to people, sometimes internally within an organization, when they speak up in the name of making things better. Ed and I are in agreement. We want Tesla to succeed. In any case, constructive criticism or talking about risks shouldn't be interpreted as wanting an organization to fail. It is a long episode. I hope you enjoy it.

We are joined by Edward Niedermeyer. How are you?

I'm doing great. Thank you.

I'm glad to have you here. I'm happy to talk about the book. I have been enjoying the preview you provided, not the sections related to Tesla and manufacturing strategy and execution, and in Lean and Toyota. The whole story is fascinating. Before we get into that, I'm curious. You have been covering the auto industry for over a decade. As you were learning about the industry, what were your perceptions about Toyota compared to the competition, business results, quality, management system, and things like that?

I started off covering the fall of the Detroit car companies in 2008. It was a good way to learn about the auto industry because it hits you how hard this business is and how many ways there are to fail. I didn't pay a lot of attention to Toyota at first. Over time, as I was examining these and learning more about these Detroit companies and the mistakes they made, the problems they faced, and the challenges, Toyota kept emerging as this other counterexample.

I'm not sure if there was one point at which I started to pay more attention to them, but over time, they stood out more. I did start to make some effort to study a little bit more about their history and cultural innovations. When I did learn more about Toyota, specifically the cultural stuff, it hit me like, “This counterexample explains why there have been many problems on the other side.”

What Toyota showed me is when you have an organization as large as a modern automaker, culture is the only thing that can hold it all together. There are individual strategies or techniques that are important to parts of the business. On a high level, culture is the glue that either holds everything together or makes everything fall apart. As you probably can tell from the book, this is something that influenced my view on Tesla.

LBI Edward Niedermeyer | Tesla
Tesla: Toyota proved that when you have an organization as large as a modern automaker, culture is the only thing that can hold it together.

My impression is that even though Tesla purchased the factory from Toyota, it was the NUMMI joint venture plant, but as I have blogged about before, it seems like Toyota culture left the building when Tesla took over. Back in 2008, with the financial crisis, the clearest compare-and-contrast between GM and Toyota. GM was going through bankruptcy, but even post-bankruptcy, when there were short-term production slowdowns, GM thought nothing of putting people on short-term layoffs, whereas Toyota intentionally chose not to lay off people. They do training. They will send people to work for Habitat for Humanity. They are investing in their people and loyalty. That is a big part of the culture.

That contrast was an important one, but now, with Tesla, the cultures could not be more different, and it is funny to think that not only did Tesla buy a factory from Toyota, but Toyota was a major investor in Tesla. People often ask and one of the questions you got asked was on Twitter. I will go ahead and answer it now, what could have been one of the major turning points or pivot points in Tesla's history?

For me, the most important pivot point was the Toyota relationship. If they could have made that work, the positive things that Tesla brings to the auto industry could have brought those. They are perfectly complementing each other. They both cover different aspects of the business. If they could have made that relationship work, Tesla could be an absolute powerhouse. It is possible that the relationship could never have worked. By the time they got together, they were different. It was doomed to some extent from the start. If that had been possible, that would have been a world-beater automaker.

My impression had always been Tesla clearly has an innovative product, and arguably only the type of product that a startup could create because of inertia and other factors in the legacy automakers. I always wondered. They have an innovative product. The way you go about assembling a car is pretty much-known science at this point. It seems like assembling a sled full of batteries to a chassis. It's not radically different than inserting an engine and a transmission.

From what I have read and been told about Tesla that the company, for better or for worse, is hell-bent on inventing its own way. Elon Musk has publicly made comments about how he was going to invent a better way of manufacturing, better than Toyota. Where do you think some of that comes from? I'm curious about some of your thoughts on that.

What makes Tesla interesting is that it is the first time we have seen a high-tech Silicon Valley startup-style culture brought to the auto industry. People look at cars mostly as consumers first. It is easy to see some of the positive things that have brought, like the big screen, the over-the-air updates, and the games and apps. There are a lot of things that, as consumers, it is easy to see. This car has technological features that other cars don't. We live in a technology-worshiping society, and that is cool.

What works best in a high-tech startup, particularly in the software space, is basically almost the exact opposite of what works best in a major automaker. If you think about it on a basic level, startups tend to be these small groups of talented people who are allowed to run free and come up with creative and innovative solutions to tough problems. That stuff happens at automakers.

What works best in a high-tech startup, particularly in the software space, is basically almost the exact opposite of what works best in a major automaker. Share on X

What defines success in an automaker is a culture that is oriented around the reality of its size and complexity. As I was saying before, “Culture is the only thing that works.” More specifically, industrial culture, which in its modern form comes out of the Toyota Production System and the Toyota way. It is extremely different. It is a major breakthrough, Red Bull-fueled hackathons leading to major breakthroughs on one side and Kaizen on the other. These are as different approaches to working as you can almost get.

A lot of people think I'm out to get to Tesla. I don't like them, or I'm getting paid by some nefarious interest to go after that. What makes this story important is that we need more high-tech influence in the auto industry and mobility. The technology space has a lot to offer. There are a lot of improvements we can make on the way we get around.

What Tesla is showing is making an invention into an innovation requires something more than that creativity. It requires structure, discipline, focus, and everything from regulatory compliance but also manufacturing is an important part of this. Not just manufacturing but the process of taking an idea into something that can be manufactured efficiently at a high quality. That is what car companies do.

LBI Edward Niedermeyer | Tesla
Tesla: Making an invention into an innovation requires something more than that creativity. It requires structure, discipline, focus, and everything from regulatory compliance and manufacturing.

It is something that, as a society broadly, we lost our appreciation for. In part because we do worship high-tech so much. This Tesla story is important because it shows there is a space in the future for industrial manufacturing, and for all those other things car companies do to bring an idea into a product that was dangerous, they are still safe enough that they can be sold and defended in court. There are a lot of things that are taken for granted.

What Tesla does is show where the line is between what high-tech startups and industrial manufacturing companies do well. I'm not sure this answers your question, but it is an important part of the book and the story. That is why this story matters. It is not because Tesla is good or bad. It is because of their test case that shows us how the future is going to shake out. It is important to see with clear eyes what they have done well and what they have not done well. When it comes to manufacturing, they have not done well.

There is lost potential where this idea of Tesla technology, Tesla innovation combined with Toyota, mass production but the building at scale. Lean manufacturing is different from the “old mass production” They should call it producing at scale. It could have been a marriage made in heaven because it was all put out there.

For the record, even though I worked for two years at General Motors several years ago, I think Tesla is an incredibly important company. I want Tesla to succeed. Some of my own personal frustration with Tesla comes from seeing preventable, avoidable struggles. Elon Musk talks about production hell. It doesn't have to be that bad. Anyone who wants to label me a hater misunderstands me. I'm not a huge fan of the legacy auto industry in a lot of ways.

There is this pet mode feature. The idea is you can leave a dog in a vehicle. The air conditioning will run. There is a display on the center stack that says, “It is okay. Fido is in here. The vehicle is being cooled.” Who is going to take time to look at that screen when the first assumption we have been conditioned to say is, “It is horrible, if not illegal, to leave a dog in the car. Don't do that?”

The thing I saw most as a customer discovered a flaw in the way that it was designed. He said, “That dog mode only works if you have left the climate control in automatic.” He had in manual. He came back to the car. It was 85 degrees. He tweeted Elon Musk. Elon wrote back and said, “Working on it.” I believe that. They are hyper-responsive. As an engineer, I look and say, “That is bad engineering. He had allowed that flaw.” There is this difference between engineering discipline and being proactive versus the break things past the mindset of Silicon Valley.

We have seen mobility become a huge trend in Silicon Valley. Part of it is tied to hubris. If Tesla wanted to be a small volume super premium manufacturer, a Bugatti or Lamborghini for Silicon Valley, I have always thought they have a niche there waiting. They created it. They could own it. They do own it, although there is more competition now. The issue is there is always this hubris that is not enough. It is not enough to make premium, small-volume cars. They have to go into the mass market.

I started writing critically about Tesla back in 2014, mostly in 2015. At the time, the manufacturing stuff was evident that there were problems with it. They are more or less have been out for a few years. Even though it was a well-received car, we could see these issues already. What you are saying about the dog mode, which is part of the Silicon Valley culture, is speed. Speed is this intrinsically good value. In the auto industry, we don't have it at all. The tech people tend to look at the car people and say, “You slowed dinosaurs 100 years old. You are old and tired.”

Speed has intrinsically good value and is part of the Silicon Valley culture. Share on X

They don't realize and don't know the reason it takes longer to develop a car and bring it to market is that it is an incredibly complex physical object which makes it fundamentally different than software. Tesla has shown that you can update some of the software stuff, but there have been problems in Tesla's cars that you can't do an over-there update for.

Making cars is a measure twice cut one's business. It is a test for five years. This is the hubris part. One of the things is people think, “I'm smart. I have all these smart people working in this company. If we think it through, we will find all the problems. We will fix them, and it will be fine.” What many years in auto history have taught is that it doesn't matter how smart you are. No one is smart enough who understand all of the different ways that a car can fail, break, and have problems.

One of my favorite examples of this with the Model S was the fit on the glass roof was hard to do. It is known that this is a difficult thing to do in manufacturing. There were these little channels along the edges of that panoramic glass roof that would collect its water. Part of it, they were using felt that was like natural wool felt.

What ended up happening because of 3 or 4 different decisions, none of which on their own were terrible decisions per se, but the way they stack up together, especially in Norway, but in other places as well, the water would soak into this wool felt. It wouldn't be able to dry fast enough. It would rot. There would be this mold. There are some amazing photos of mold taking over the entire inside of the headliner of people's cars. That is the auto industry. You can make a decision about each one of those little decisions. No one in their right mind is going to understand how all of those things are going to fail in that cascading failure. That is why each of us has to test.

My dad spent his whole career at General Motors. There is a reason why they test vehicles in Death Valley and on top of a mountain in Colorado. They are looking at the extreme-edge use cases for vehicles where not everyone got the temperature and the weather of Silicon Valley. You talk about speed, and it is funny.

At least for a period before the other automakers caught up, there was a time when Toyota was going from idea to market in two years in the development of a new model. The rest of the auto industry takes 4 to 5 years. It is ironic that people would view Toyota as in, “If you got a process that is going to be slow.” If anything, it is because of process and discipline that Toyota was a lot faster on the product-development front over time. That is another of their lost opportunity.

People have lots of interesting ideas about why Toyota wanted to have a partnership with Tesla and want to invest in them. People say, “Akio Toyoda drove the car and thought it was great and loved it.” That was it. That was part of it. There are lots of different things that go into a strategic investment like that. One of the main ones was Akio Toyoda had taken over Toyota. He was worried about what he called big-company disease.

If you look at General Motors, that is the prime example of a big-company disease. He felt like some of those things were happening at Toyota. He felt that Tesla embodied what he called enterprise culture, which we could compare to Silicon Valley startup culture. He wanted Toyota people to be exposed to that. That was what a lot of that investment, according to my sources, was about.

First of all, the culture clash was immediate. I could not go into a lot of detail about this in the book, unfortunately. My sources at Toyota say, “It wasn't just that Tesla was arrogant. There was some arrogance on Toyota's side as well.” Toyota's engineers, the best engineers, in particular, tend to have some arrogance. They tend to have a hard time working with new systems. There was a culture clash on both sides there.

One of the interesting things was at the time, and this was roughly around the sudden unintended acceleration-scandal period, they were looking at speeding up their development cycle for vehicles. They were examining that possibility internally. Around that time, they realized, “This Tesla relationship isn't going anywhere.” Independently, this Tesla experience went badly.

They decided they wanted to extend their development time, not by operating it shorter but by making it a little bit longer. It wasn't by much, maybe 4 to 5 years or 3 to 4 years. I don't remember the details now. It is interesting they went in hoping to learn from this move-fast-break-things mentality. They, if nothing else, did not find anything there that made them be like, “That is the direction we should go.”

I was going to ask, and you alluded to it. Why did that relationship between Tesla and Toyota fall apart? Is it probably described as a culture clash?

Yes, from day one. The challenge with reporting on Tesla is that anecdotes are hard to corroborate sometimes, especially when they happen at higher levels. When you are dealing with a known litigious player, you will have to be careful. Unfortunately, there are some wonderful anecdotes that, for legal reasons, did not make the cut. Suffice it to say that the announcement event had a major culture clash from the beginning. It was Akio Toyoda's idea. It wasn't something that necessarily had come organically from inside Toyota. The culture clash was extremely strong.

There is a conflict on the engineering side. Outside of that, Toyota wanted to learn from Tesla. The tragic part of this is I haven't seen any evidence that Tesla understood the opportunity they had to learn from Toyota. Individually, there were some cases where people got it. Organizationally and culturally, there was no, “We need to jump on this attitude.”

LBI Edward Niedermeyer | Tesla
Tesla: Toyota wanted to learn from Tesla. However, there is no evidence that Tesla understood the opportunity that they had to learn from them.

One of the frustrating things about having been critical of their manufacturing culture back in early 2015 and late 2014, at the time, I said, “This is not about now. You can make Model S in 20,000, 30,000, to 40,000 units a year. You don't have to be the leanest operation out there. You will get away with it. What you have been saying is you want to be a mass-market player. You want to be making 500,000 to 1 million cars a year. If that is true, you need to get on top of this stuff now because culture is not something you can turn around right away. You have to start as soon as humanly possible.”

Even if you have gone at that point, 2012, Tesla had been around for several years. You face a challenge at that point in shifting the culture. They needed to do that. This gets to another problematic part of Tesla's culture which is when people are critical. This is both outside the company, people like me, or other reporters or analysts who make critical statements about the company, even internally. It is not a place where internal criticism is welcomed.

These are all generalized. There are exceptions to everything, but responding to that, we need to improve culture. This goes back to Frank in the book. In 2008, when the Roadster was first being produced, he came in and said, “We have to institute some lean practices here.” It was like, “Forget it. The culture was already entrenched as being not a traditional automaker. We are going to be doing our own thing.”

It was like, “Get out of here. We don't want you.” The tragic part is that, in those early days, they were able to get away with it because they were making small volumes of premium cars. That was okay, but they needed to start that to avoid what had been a disastrous launch and manufacturing of the Model 3, which now the company is at stake.

One thing you talk about in the book is Tesla, at some point, deviated from its initial strategy of being a fabulous automaker, as they called it. Back during the financial crisis, there was excess capacity in the auto industry. Suppliers and subcontractors have the ability to build the cars. Tesla could have designed the cars and had manufacturing outsourced, but they moved away from that. It was this opportunity. It was too good to pass up buying the NUMMI plant. What are your thoughts on why they moved away from that strategy, where they have insourced more than an automaker would?

That started with the Roadster. The original pitch tech was, “We are going to be this fabless company.” This goes back to even earlier in the '90s. There was this trend of these tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers doing more of the R&D work for automakers. The automakers are increasingly becoming final assembly and marketing. That trend has hit a bit of high water, especially with new future technologies being developed.

Automakers understand they need to be masters of their fate technologically. At the time, you can buy all these parts off the shelf. You can have someone else put them all together for you. As I described in the book, and others have described this process, the Roadster did not turn out the way they thought it would. They thought it would be a simple conversion. Elon Musk was pushing to have a lot more changes to the car. It would be unique and distinctive.

This was a Lotus body that they were buying.

Lotus was identified as the car body. The AC Propulsion had developed tzero, which is a race kit car. It had this amazing electric drivetrain. They thought, “We will take this drivetrain. We will license their technology and put it together with this Lotus. This will be simple. It would be like dropping a different motor in a car.” That is not what happened at all.

The AC Propulsion case is an interesting one. This is how clueless they were about manufacturing. They didn't realize these drivetrains were handmade by the people who invented them. There was no documentation. They were extremely finicky. They were a work of art almost, where it could only be made by one person. The difference between that and something that is manufacturable is there is an ocean dividing those two realities. They had to make it manufacturable. In the process, they dramatically reinvented that drivetrain and made it better. That held up as part of Tesla's innovation.

The other way of looking at this that gets left out in the other books that are out there and the other perspectives on this is if you are about to go into the car-manufacturing business, you got to make sure what you are doing can be manufactured. They hadn't done that. On the car side, there was this elegant screen but then there was also this lack of understanding that re-engineering a door for a car can be more expensive than redeveloping a new drivetrain.

LBI Edward Niedermeyer | Tesla
Tesla: If you are about to go into the car-manufacturing business, make sure what you are doing can be manufactured.

People take things about cars for granted. What evolved from the idea of buying a couple of off-the-shelf parts, putting them together simply, and putting them out there turned into a lot of invention, creation, and building their own thing. They were accidental automakers. They ended up in this place of being an OEM without setting out to do it.

That is where the ambivalence about manufacturing has always been. On some deep level, they never wanted to be a car company with its own factory, but, at the same time, they threw these twists of faith and lack of planning that ended up having to do more. They were like, “We are going to manufacture battery packs.” They started doing this stuff to get the cars out the door. In the process, it became their culture.

It shows that culture isn't necessarily the principles you write down at the beginning and say, “This is what we are going to do.” It is what you end up doing and how you end up solving problems. These things are all part of Tesla's culture. Getting from something where you are controlled freaky and using cutting-edge technology to manufacture these cars or unlike anything else, now you are trying to build mass-market affordable cars. It's a totally different project. They got this culture forged in this experimentation with the Roadster. It is not a great fit for what they are trying to do now.

When you look at the culture and some of the differences there, there is this faith where you think of alternative history. If we had no financial crisis and General Motors had not gone bankrupt, GM might not have pulled out of the NUMMI joint venture with Toyota. Tesla might not have had the opportunity to buy that factory for pennies on the dollar. They might have pursued the manufacturing fabless automaker route.

One of Tesla's big challenges is working with suppliers. If you look at their supplier relationships, they have all fallen apart. At the moment, we are looking at the slow-motion collapse of their most important supplier relationship, which is with Panasonic. It is their battery supplier. That is the one relationship that is endured.

If you look at Mobileye, which helps them make Autopilot a reality, go down the list. If you talk to suppliers, working with Tesla is a unique challenge. It is because they wanted to do things themselves. It is difficult to go to a supplier when you are a low-volume automaker and get them to take you seriously. I had the CTO of Zoox, which is a self-driving car company. They are building this robocab from the ground up.

They realized that you have to be able to work with suppliers even if that means giving up some of what you want to control. You cannot do this stuff by itself. You cannot create a new car, the self-driving system, and all of these things without leaning on the people who understand manufacturing, cars, and car parts, how they go together, how they work together, and how they don't. One of the important lessons that Tesla teaches is if you want to be in the manufacturing business, you have to be able to work with suppliers.

Tesla teaches that if you want to be in the manufacturing business, you have to be able to work with suppliers. Share on X

That is a big part of Toyota's success. There is an annual ranking of asking the suppliers which automakers are best to work with. Toyota, every year for the last several years, has been number one. Honda is number two. Nissan is at the bottom of the list with Fiat Chrysler. It shows not all Japanese automakers are the same. That is a big part of Toyota's culture and broader management system. It is not their own production, but it is the supply chain.

They realized suppliers have to be brought in as part of the development process. Early on, you have to bring them in and make them part of the team developing this car. They are not a just company you buy parts from. They have to be integrated into the development process. Once the production happens, they have to be able to do it in time. That requires a close relationship.

This is something I learned early on about the difference between Toyota and other companies. GM and Chrysler were infamous for bleeding their suppliers dry. There hasn't been a lot reported on this. There are a lot of stories. They are waiting to be told. It is a difficult one. Tesla keeps going back to suppliers and says, “We need more cuts. We need lower cost.” Retroactive price cuts have been reported.

Those are two things. They work in the short term. If you need to make your quarterly numbers, soak your supplier. The problem is that, over the long run, it breaks down the relationship. The relationship is what makes not only the quality good and makes you a priority, but it allows the just-in-time to work. If you look at Tesla, one of their biggest problems on the service side is the lack of parts availability. That is an inventory management just-in-time problem. You need to have good relationships with your suppliers in order to solve problems like that. They certainly don't have great relationships with their suppliers at this point.

There is another key element there where the part shortages and being good to work with means having a stable level of the production schedule. There was a point back in 2004. I was working for a software company where we were doing some implementation work with an auto supplier in Michigan that sent headliners to Honda, Ford, and Chrysler. They said, when they sent a schedule, they knew that schedule was going to be consistent in terms of the mix of how many of which type of headliners to send.

The big three automakers were constantly jerking them around. The schedule meant nothing. They would change their order at the last minute. That was incredibly disruptive. It ended up increasing costs, which would prevent that supplier from being able to offer better efficiency and lower cost over time. Imagine Tesla with their Silicon Valley hockey-stick production curves.

I'm always reading about their big end-of-quarter push, which reminds me of what Dell Computer was like in the 2000 timeframe when I worked there. That end-of-quarter spike and the mad scramble to hit this quarter's numbers creates a lot of problems. You can say they are being innovative or crazy because no one else in the auto industry does it that way.

In some ways, the crazy part is they find new ways to do old problems. That lack of planning and consistent scheduling is a problem that a lot of automakers have struggled with for a long time. Tesla has found new ways to have that old problem. One of the things that I have still never been able to find a good explanation for is why Tesla varies the rate of production within a given quarter. You can see it. People who watch the factory can tell it.

It is dead for the first month or so of the quarter. As the quarter goes on, it builds this crescendo of frantic people running around, people working 14-hour shifts, 7 days a week. It is absolute madness. Everything we know about manufacturing makes it clear. It is not that hard to understand why. Operating at a steady state is the best way to operate your production facility and system. It is the best way for your suppliers. It keeps things consistent and predictable for them. Up and down from supply chain management to manufacturing itself, it makes sense. Here we are years later. Tesla is still doing this frantic slowdown, speeding up variable rates.

Steady operating at a steady state is the best way to operate your production facility and system. It keeps things consistent and predictable for your suppliers. Share on X

I wish I could explain why they do it. They certainly won't ever say as a company officially. I can't tell you why they think that is the right way to do things. The best guess I have heard is cash management. One of the other things that Tesla proves is that managing a car company for the benefit of momentum stock investors seems to be a poor idea. Momentum stock investors have the opposite mentality of what you want, as an automaker, from a long-term leadership perspective. That has also been something that has hurt Tesla. They became a momentum stock. They started running the company in a way that made those people happy. It is a terrible decision.

One of the brilliant things that Tesla did was take all those pre-orders for Model 3 because this is what Boeing does. You create this huge backlog, and you have known demand as long as the customers are willing to wait. You could level your production, which has a lot of benefits. It seems like they have burned down a lot of that backlog. I have read things where Elon talks about, “We are constantly adjusting pricing to help shape demand.”

In companies like this, there was this crazy pressure to hit the quarterly numbers. Within the last weeks of the quarter, you start offering discounts and deals. It was the case at Dell. I haven't shopped for a Tesla. I don't know if that is what they do. I'm curious if you know this or have a sense of it that their widely varying production rates are far more variable than the actual demand for cars. It must be something they are injecting to try to catch up from not being on a good pace to hit what they have promised Wall Street.

You are constantly seeing them change things. Sometimes, it is about volume. They need to hit their volume goals. Sometimes, it is about shortening up the margin. It is deeply ironic because Elon Musk has always pitched the company store approach, not having franchise dealers, as being a way to avoid these slimy guys who play all these games of pricing. You never know what you are getting. It is hard to say because of different dealers. There are good and bad dealers.

You can't compare that whole system to what Tesla is doing, but Tesla constantly changes how much autopilot or self-driving costs. They will have a car on the showroom floor. “We don't ever discount,” they say, but all of a sudden, it can sometimes be tens of thousands of dollars off on some of these things. Ludicrous was $10,000 one day, and the next day, it was free.

Supercharging was included, and then it was not. Now, it is again.

This is tied to the problems at manufacturing, but what we are starting to see, which is going to be problematic for the company, is that this is starting to erode customer satisfaction or happiness. It is one thing to say, “I'm an early adopter. If I'm going to pay more, I maybe even get a little less because that is how these high-tech products work.”

Now that they are in a more mature business, they are in a higher-volume, lower price-point market. People are starting to say, “Depreciation aside, what I bought several months ago is now worth $6,000 less. That is not even depreciation. That is a new MSRP. How can that happen?” It is because they needed to move more cars. They care more about that than about the people they have sold cars to.

I read the forums a lot. This is all subjective and not quantified. Over the past years, I have increasingly seen this unhappiness with the constant changing in prices and options. People are getting burnt out on it. No one can keep up with it. It doesn't feel like Tesla is trying to make things fair and even-handed, especially to the extent they promised they would be able to relative to new car dealers.

I like to ask authors, what motivates you to write a book? That is such a big endeavor. There are already other books out there about Tesla. It is that question of why write the book. The title and the subtitle are Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. Why write it? What makes it unvarnished? I want to talk more about Twitter-sphere. I tweeted that I was going to be interviewing you. There were a number of people who wrote and said, “He is writing the book because he is out to get Tesla.” You referred to that earlier. Why wade into this?

LBI Edward Niedermeyer | Tesla
Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors

The short answer to why I write a book specifically is because that was incredibly naive. I had no idea what it took to write a book. Because of all these people you are referencing, I have been dealing with them for a long time. One of the knocks against me is I have been predicting that Tesla would fail since 2008 because I wrote a couple of blog posts way back then, but I didn't write about Tesla between 2009 and late 2014 when I started writing a little more critically.

In 2015, as I described in the book, I stumbled onto this battery swap thing, which I have been fascinated with. I realized that Tesla had created this Potemkin technology that was used to prop up their financial situation. That was the point at which I got sucked into the story. That was coincidental. I have been writing about them for a long time. From the beginning, if you write anything critical, particularly at the time, there was a lot about manufacturing. You are trying to hurt them. You are shorting their stock. You are trying to make the stock go down.

It was like, “If you don't fix these problems and you don't start building your culture when Model 3 comes out, it is going to be a disaster because you are not going to have that manufacturing culture in place. You are not going to have done enough testing.” The knock on me is that I have been predicting they will fail since 2008. In reality, what I have been doing is trying to warn them of the problems that have happened.

There is so much happening with Tesla, which is why it is such a great story. With the exception of both of these fans of the company and almost all investors in the company, Tesla has written blog posts saying, I'm shorting their stock and making up stories. It is an absolute lie. That part aside is the best story the car industry has to offer. It's got it all.

I'm not a traditional car guy. I'm interested in all kinds of things, the environment, trade, politics, and engineering. I'm a generalist. Tesla has many cultures. Tesla has success. It is tied into where we are culturally now, whether that is our obsession with technology, where that comes from, and what that means for how we see the world.

Even if you look at the successes of someone like President Trump, there are some similarities between how he has succeeded in his strategies for success and Elon Musk. That makes people angry. I kept that out of the book. It is true. Tesla is a product of our time. My core interest is history. Tesla embodies all these different aspects of our moment in history, particularly the auto industry and where it is going.

You mentioned the dog mode earlier and that little bug where if the fan mode weren't on automatic, the dog mode wouldn't work. Someone could have potentially allowed their dog to die from the heat. That is one little example of what happens when you don't test enough. What the auto industry is good at is testing, being thorough, and thinking this whole spiel called functional safety. It is working all the way through the things that go wrong and what happens when that thing goes wrong. It is the five whys of safety. It is a simplistic way to think about it.

These things are important for cars. It is not a smartphone app and software on a computer that is just 1s and 0s. This is life and death. Thirty thousand plus people a year die in the US and 1.5 million globally a year die on the roads because of cars. Not being responsible for how you engineer those is going to contribute to that.

Even more important is if you are looking at the future, now you are talking about cars that drive themselves. You need innovation to do that. You need creative thinkers coming up with new solutions, but you need that functional safety, that thorough test, vet, go through all the potential problems, and that process-driven stuff that traditional automakers do well, the validation, that is such an important part of this.

You need creative thinkers coming up with new solutions in the auto industry. Share on X

With self-driving cars coming eventually, we are going to be asked to trust our cars even more than we already do. Moving more towards moving fast and breaking stuff is the wrong approach. We need to appreciate what it is that the car companies have been able to do in terms of making vehicles as safe as they can be.

There is an inherent flaw in dog mode. There is that center screen that, on a sunny day when there is glare, and if the windows are tinted, is someone even going to be able to see or read that? I was scrolling through some articles. I predicted somebody was going to smash the window of a Tesla because they think they are saving a dog. There is an article here that says, “Even the fact the dog mode is there is because somebody on Twitter asked.”

I admire that Elon listens to customers and is responsive. He is sometimes as defensive and rude as Steve Jobs was when he interacted with customers. The engineering discipline of not testing but what people call failure modes affects the analysis. Brainstorm and be proactive. What are the ways the system could fail?

There is a whole different episode we could do around promises versus reality. Is this a vision that they are having trouble catching up to? It is hard to tell if something is a lie or if we didn't execute it. One other thing you mentioned about similarities to Trump. I have made that comparison before. It is not a perfect analogy, but Elon Musk plays the fake news card. He labels something he doesn't like fake news. Maybe it is a product of polarized times where you can't just disagree. You have to label that person as being somehow evil because they have a different view. That bothers me when Trump does it. I have seen Elon do similar things.

A lot of this culture that is built up around Tesla is an online culture. The Internet is what allows it to exist and what has created it. I have been watching it emerge and now become this multi-headed beast. What is fascinating is it came out of electric car fan culture, which is different. There was a lot of passion and enthusiasm. Some of those, “Big oil is the reason that electric cars don't exist.” Some of that was there, but it has turned into something different.

A lot of it comes from the fact that the culture is dominated by people who are investing. When you see people out there defending Tesla, a lot of times, they aren't thinking at all about what is going to be best for this company long term. They are thinking about what is going to be best for the short term and not best for the company but best for its stock price.

They are constantly saying, “Anybody who criticizes Tesla is shorting the stock, working for the shorts, or trying to make the stock price go down.” They are projecting their own stake in this onto other people. It is another way in which something can seem a positive thing. Having this incredibly passionate fan base is something that any automaker would kill for. Nobody has anything close to this. It is this awesome thing, but it has gone wrong. It has taken a turn to where it is one of the things that hurt the company the most.

It is hard to say the extent to which this culture outside the company is caused or directly fostered by the company itself versus taking cues from it. That relationship, like anything else, is complex. Refusal to listen to constructive criticism, forcing people into the enemy box, and anything that might make the stock go down is bad for the company, even if that means acknowledging something as part of the first step towards solving it long term is problematic. It is a mob rule. That is something in this moment of online communities radicalizing themselves and pushing each other to be ever more extreme and radical. You see that in a lot of different other areas.

Refusal to listen to constructive criticism, forcing people into the enemy box, and anything that might make the stock go down is bad for the company. Share on X

There is a blog post here on the Tesla blog. This might be what you are referring to called A Grain of Salt. Maybe you can talk a little bit about this, where they say, “A blogger who fabricated this issue about a high-speed accident in Germany that caused Model S to fly 82 feet through the air, Edward Niedermeyer.” This is like Trump punching down, calling you out by name, and saying, “It is wise to take Mr. Niedermeyer's words with at least a small grain of salt.” You inaccurately predicted their death.

They say, and I will let you respond to this, “We don't know if Mr. Niedermeyer's motivation is to simply set a world record for axe-grinding or whether he and his associates have something financial to gain by negatively affecting Tesla's stock price.” They don't directly call you a short seller, but it is important to highlight there are several billion dollars in short sales that is against Tesla, which means there is a strong financial incentive. They smeared you there.

They said I made up the story. This was in 2016. There was a guy who posted on this forum saying the suspension on his Tesla had broken, and in order to get it repaired, under good will, which is a free or reduced-cost repair that Tesla would do if something that wasn't necessarily a warranty repair, he had to sign a nondisclosure agreement. He posted the agreement, which he wasn't supposed to do. He did it anyway and rightfully so.

This creates a major regulatory problem because auto safety regulation in the US, NHTSA, relies on two sources of data. You can get it from the manufacturer, which they have an incentive not to share everything, or you can get it from customers who write these complaints to NHTSA. Not only was Tesla making people who had defects or problems that they were repairing sign a nondisclosure saying, “You cannot talk to anybody about any of this.”

There was this culture in the forums where the owners wanted to know information about what was going wrong, but the investors would come in and be like, “Don't talk about it. This is fine. You are making this up.” They are extremely defensive, like, “There can't be anything wrong with these cars. Everything must be fine.”

I found multiple other examples of people alleging that Tesla uses nondisclosure agreements to prevent them from talking publicly about this stuff. I wrote the story. I list all these examples. NHTSA came out. I got a comment from NHTSA. They said, “This is an unacceptable practice. They have to stop. They cannot keep using these agreements.”

Tesla said, “We would never do anything to prevent people from reporting stuff to the regulator.” They did, in fact, do that. They felt like they had to do something. In the example with the guy's suspension breaking, I mentioned that there had been some other complaints about suspension breaking, but I was clear. I'm not a forensic engineer. I also have examined these things. I can't tell you if a defect exists. I can tell you that we don't have the information to know that a defect exists in part because Tesla has been silencing people from sharing information that might allow you to conclude that a defect exists.

Tesla made it out that I had said that a defect exists and a defect didn't exist. They created a straw man out of my piece. They said all this stuff about me. This is where I have been predicting Tesla's bankruptcy for several years because in 2008, the first year I was doing this, I was writing freelance for a blog where someone else would heavily edit my pieces and put up the headlines. We have a number of series called The Death Watches. At the time, it was the GM Death Watch. It was the biggest one, and the Chrysler and the Ford Death Watch. Those came true. GM and Chrysler went bankrupt.

For a few years, the guy who ran the site at the time wanted to do a Tesla Death Watch. At that time, Tesla did almost go bankrupt. Elon Musk said it himself in 2008. They came extremely close to bankruptcy. One of the reasons they didn't go bankrupt is they pulled a funding-secured type of situation which is funny. People forget about that. It is in the book, and we go back and look at the history. One of the ways they keep alive is by saying they got money when they hadn't yet.

I didn't write that at the time. It was a death watch. We were re-blogging other people's reporting. They happened to be this death watch headline. The Tesla one was a fraction of the GM one. This allows them to create a perception that I have been doing this non-stop. The irony is that in 2014, I had lunch at Tesla headquarters with a high-ranking Tesla executive. How does that happen if I'm in a middle of a several-year death watch? It doesn't make any sense, but people repeat it again because it is my team versus your team thing.

In the early 2000s, there was a website, They would do that all the time with tech companies. That was a Silicon Valley thing, a company death pool or death watch around tech companies. Tesla is a Silicon Valley tech company. It was part of that era. That wasn't just a Tesla thing.

I'm glad I did take the opportunity with this book to go back through the history of the company. I didn't do it to write the definitive history. I don't think it can be done at this point. People need to be able to come out and speak more openly about the company before we get the definitive history. The reason I did it was to understand the roots of the problems and the challenges they are having.

I'm glad I did it because what it shows is it is easy now that Tesla is this $40 billion to $50 billion-dollar juggernaut to look back and say, “This was inevitable. This was bound to happen.” Their history is punctuated with annual, every 18 months, or 24 months, near-death experiences. The desperate and, in a lot of cases, at best unethical things that were done to keep the company alive.

That is why I have a lot of respect on some level. They had been able to fight, tear, kick, and bite to stay alive. The survival instincts of this company are amazing. Elon Musk's ability, when his back is against the wall, to make something happen is amazing. That is fundamentally not how you run an automaker successfully. The entire game in car-making is planning out the future as much as possible. Even if you leave some money on the table somewhere in there, if you stick to your plan and stay consistent, you can keep that machine rolling along.

The entire game in car-making is planning out the future as much as possible. Even if you leave some money on the table, you can keep that machine rolling along. Share on X

People don't understand that there is an article or a list of defunct American car companies. The American ones are over thousands. This is a business that is chewed up and spits out some huge egos, fortunes, and larger-than-life personalities. As impressive as it is that Musk has got Tesla to survive as long as they have and to get the market cap that they have, the idea that their success thus far guarantees continued growth at the same level or even long-term survival is not the case. This is not just my opinion. This is what history shows, not the history of Tesla. You compare that with the auto industry and what has worked. It couldn't be more clear.

There are a lot of things I admire about Elon Musk and Tesla, but it is not just DeLorean. Fisker and other electric carmakers of the 2000s era failed. It is good that Tesla has survived, but there is a flip side. There are ethical and honesty concerns. I learned from your book that Elon Musk was not a cofounder. He certainly portrays that.

As I learned from your book, he was an investor who became chairman and forced his way into being CEO, this denial of quality problems. The first funding secured incident made me chuckle because I didn't realize the $420 price share funding secured wasn't the first time he had pulled that. There was the story you wrote about the somewhat questionable way they forced a profitable quarter to secure DOE loans. There were some things they had announced about those loans when they hadn't even had their application approved.

They didn't even have an application that filled out the basic requirements for applications to be approved. At the time, that was the second. The $420 was the third time he said, “I could find where that funding was secured.” It wasn't. The second time was when they said they had a DOE loan. The DOE had told them they would disperse the funding for their loans in 4 to 5 months. It ended up being a year and a half when the actual dispersal happened. At the time they made that announcement, they hadn't made a complete application to the program yet.

These things matter. If you can project a sense of certainty that things can happen, there may be a number of parallels that you can connect this to or leave to others. It is this fake-it-until-you-make-it thing. You can project the sense that you are successful, almost successful, or success is right around the corner. Oftentimes, that is enough to make it that success comes into being.

What Tesla has been doing its entire history is saying, “There is this great thing right around the corner. We are almost there, but we are not quite.” They are using that to raise money, which fills in the operational holes for what has happened. People have likened it to a Ponzi scheme. I wouldn't say that itself. They create products. They do innovate. They do some amazing things, but their financial pattern is clear.

This has been reaching a crescendo for a while. This pattern has reached a point where it is fully self-driving. It is saying, “We are going to take these cars. They are going to drive themselves. They are going to be appreciating assets. They are going out and earning $30,000 a year and all this stuff.” People believe it.

I have a podcast called Autonocast. I spend a lot of time talking to people in the self-driving car space. I have documented all this history. A lot of people think that a lot of these specific incidents that we have been discussing were fraudulent on the part of Tesla. I try to avoid using that term. People don't set out to commit fraud. That does happen, but it is relatively rare.

More often, people get into something with good intentions. It gets out of their control. They have to do one thing. They do something a little bit more aggressive, and they get away with it. I don't spell this out in the book because I don't want to get sued. I don't want to say they are committing fraud, but this self-driving thing is the point at which they become very much like Theranos. Theranos had to do this early in their history because they never had anything.

I don't think he intended to commit fraud, but it got out of control.

Tesla made legitimately great cars. They have done things that are legitimately real, add value, and distinguish them from Theranos as a company. This pattern of having to fake it until you make it. That is the term that gets used a lot with Theranos. With the self-driving part of this, I am personally convinced that the pattern has reached as far as it can go with this thing. We will see what happens. We got a heck of a show lined up for the next couple of years when they have to reach a point where they said they would deliver on this stuff. How they handle that is going to be interesting.

You already see that it is one of the things that is making people who did believe in the company lose faith. Tesla runs on faith as much as anything else. In some ways, faith is the most important asset. To the extent that this is eroding faith, it is already sowing some of the seeds of real fundamental problems with the company.

There are a lot of other interesting stories in the book. I encourage people to go and pre-order it. It is called Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors by Edward Niedermeyer. Ed, let me ask one more question because there is stuff in the book about this culture clash between Toyota or NUMMI veterans and Tesla.

There's a quote in there of Elon Musk getting mad and yelling at someone, “We are not building Toyotas.” It goes back to your point. They were building more like a Bugatti or Range Rover, where people realized it was a premium product. It is interesting. They are more willing to accept breakdowns, electrical glitches, or other problems.

You mentioned earlier there is a story about someone on the road. It is your production team. You call them Frank. His colleagues didn't show much interest in developing the TPS culture he had learned in his previous assembly line job. I have had people email me. A couple of people have said, “I work at Tesla, and you don't dare bring up Toyota or NUMMI. It is something you don't mention.”

There are different stories. My final question for you is, considering the company is litigious. They have come after you. How do you vet the stories that go into a book like this? How do you quality control it to make sure the stories aren't made up by somebody who has a grudge against the company because they got fired for some reason?

Unfortunately, a lot of anecdotes that were in this book have had to be removed. The book goes through a rigorous legal review with the publisher's lawyers. We have a fact-checking review prior to that with my editors. Before that even happens, I have my own personal vetting process where I decide, “Is this person credible? Does this anecdote seem real?”

I say this as a storyteller. It is unfortunate that the best anecdotes I have had to be left on the cutting room floor. Anecdotes can be a wonderful way. They are engaging. They draw you in. They can illustrate these broader patterns. This is why it was okay leaving them on the cutting floor. What is important is not the anecdotes. It is the broader patterns. When it comes to the broader patterns, there is no shortage of evidence to support how things are at Tesla.

One of the issues with Tesla across the board, whether it is quality or culture, all these other things, is that it is inconsistent. Because it is inconsistent, it can be great for some people. I made it clear in the book. If you are an engineer, especially a design engineer, Tesla was a playground. People had the best jobs of their careers at Tesla if they were in those areas.

People who are in manufacturing and quality control rarely say, Tesla was the best job of their career. There are inconsistencies within the company. Those show you what the company's priorities are and, therefore, what the culture is. We are losing leading sales on the table by not going for the splashy anecdotes as much as possible, but that wasn't the point of this. The point of this was to understand what the broader patterns are.

LBI Edward Niedermeyer | Tesla
Tesla: With so many inconsistencies within the company, people in manufacturing and quality control rarely consider Tesla as the best job of their careers.

I have spoken with lots of people, mostly former Tesla employees at all different levels, and not just employees, from the board level to top-level executives all the way down to the ranking file on the assembly line. I have also drawn a lot from the excellent reporting that a number of other people have done in this space. I listed them on the back of the book. It is too long to list them all here, but there has been some amazing journalism done.

For me, because my priority was to illustrate the patterns, that was the point of going through the history of the company. It was not to document it exhaustively but to understand where these patterns come from. That, to me, is the important part. I'm not going to share all the details that went into vetting individual sources because if the individual source said something that was outside of these patterns, I wanted to understand why and where that was coming from. The patterns themselves were already precleared to me before I even started writing the book.

I will have a website. It is not up yet, but it is I will be posting all of my sources, not the identities of the people that spoke to me but everything where I have a citable source, which I have in the endnotes at the end of the book. I will also be posting all the documents that I have obtained through FOIA requests. There is some stuff in there.

That was not why they have been reported and may be of interest to some people. I'm fairly transparent on Twitter. For better or for worse, if you want to ask me a question about any particular part of the book, I'm there. I don't run away from that. It is @Tweetermeyer. I have dealt with enough of these criticisms and attacks that I'm not afraid of them anymore. Bring it on.

I asked this question about vetting sources because when I put out there on Twitter what questions would be asked, some of the responses were attacks instead of questions. It is a fair question. How do you vet sources? I'm going to ask two other questions and let you go because there are many sides to Twitter. On the humorous side, Chad Kirchner asked, “Would he rather fight 1 horse-sized Elon or 100 duck-sized Elon?”

I'd rather not fight Elon at all. I would like it if Elon could see that my criticisms are constructive. I don't want Tesla to fail. I don't want him to fail. These things are things that automakers have had to deal with. There are the things that make the auto business difficult, why there are many car companies that have gone bankrupt, and why Tesla, itself, has already several times nearly gone bankrupt. I would prefer not to fight Elon. However, I will take my chances with one horse-sized Elon. You get 100 duck-sized Elons. They start putting their heads together. That sounds scarier.

One horse-sized Elon could kick you and cause a lot of damage. I don't know if the duck-sized Elons would be annoying. The less flippant question instead of 100 duck-sized Elons is, “If you were made the new CEO of Tesla, what would you do in your first 100 days?”

It is a challenging question, A) because I don't think I'm personally well-adapted to the auto industry. Some of these things that I criticize, people think, “You must think you are much better than Elon or Tesla.” A lot of these things are things I know about myself. I'm not the most organized person. I'm not great at planning. Luckily, I work in a creative field where you don't necessarily have to adopt these lean practices super rigorously, although I'm sure I could improve my own productivity if I did.

I have never held myself up as, “I would be better at running this company than anybody.” The other part is that the problems, when you boil them down, are cultural. Therefore, nothing in 100 days is going to change that. We are talking about months, years, or a decade to turn cultures around. As a result of that, what I would put my priority on is to try and solidify what Tesla has. What Tesla has is a successful premium car business.

As I write in the book, a lot of this desire to get into the mass market comes from the desire to build a legend. The top-secret master plan where Elon Musk puts out this strategy of going to the mass market is in response to a conflict with one of the original founders, Martin Eberhard, over publicity. Elon was getting enough publicity. He puts out this thing that is like, “We are going to save mankind by making cars for even the poor folks.”

What Tesla has proven is they can have an impact on the auto industry, even just by selling premium cars. I would refocus Tesla to be a small-volume, premium car maker. I would hike prices. I would set them up. I would do special editions. I'm trying to get them onto a profitable basis, not trying to have them chase growth at all costs.

LBI Edward Niedermeyer | Tesla
Tesla: Tesla has proven that they can have an impact on the auto industry, even just by selling premium cars.

I would also try and do some things to communicate to the public that we are not going to attack critics anymore. No company has all the answers. We need to listen to what we are doing wrong to fix them. There is a mix of strategic stuff and setting the tone to be able to be a bit more humble and focus on the task, which is continuing to develop and make cars that people love and get excited about but also delivering them at much better quality and having a much more consistent service and customer experience after that.

Tesla has done some amazing things to innovate, but what the company needs is to be on a solid footing. That is not sexy and not exciting. It is not going to be the thing that has them in the news every day and every week as it has been. As we have also seen, that is something that has turned from being a positive thing to being more of a negative thing.

Honestly, I would try and make Tesla more like a regular car company. I know there are fans who don't want to read that. I would be terrible at leading the company as a result. That is fine. It is never going to happen. The company needs to consolidate its success. If it keeps doing what it has been doing, it will never do that.

Thank you, Ed. I appreciate you giving so much of your time to talk about a fascinating and important company. There are a lot of interesting stories in the book. I have read about the first 100 pages, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest. The book is Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. It is due for release on August 20th, 2019. It is the number one new release in the automobile industry section. Congratulations on that, Ed. Thank you again for sharing the book with me and being a guest here on the show.

Thank you. It has been great. I hope that if the book accomplishes anything, it gives people a better understanding of the kinds of things that you guys talk about, specifically about the Lean Institute. These are important things that too often get left behind in the love of innovation. I respect what you guys do, and I'm pleased to have been able to be on the show.


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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