Is there something in the water at Tesla? First we learned that the auto startup decided to stop selling the only car it has on tap (the Roadster) a whole year before the Model S sedan goes on sale in 2012. That means the company will go a long time without any marketable product. And now Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been caught making the ultimate auto bigwig mistake of flying around in a private jet–at least 12 times in the last 14 months, to be exact.
According to FAA records, Musk took his Dassault Falcon 900 jet to Washington both before and after the U.S. government lent Tesla $465 million for the Model S. The cost of Musk’s jetsetting ways: $175,000 in the latter half of 2009. Did Musk actually need to travel for business? It’s quite possible, but in the wake of the Big Three auto companies’ fall from grace, it seems unwise to use a private jet while also asking taxpayers to pay for your product.
For its part, a Tesla spokesman told Wired that the company doesn’t have a private jet and that, “When traveling on
business, Elon and other Tesla employees have used his private
airplane, especially for urgent or unscheduled travel, other times they
fly coach. Tesla has paid for expenses such fuel charges and landing
fees on some of the trips.” Fair enough. Let’s hope–for the sake of Tesla’s PR department, at least–that this doesn’t happen again.