Q: Yesterday, Tesla disclosed that its target of producing 500,000 cars annually has been moved up to 2018. Elon Musk spent much of Tesla’s earnings call weathering questions about how this was feasible, given the company’s 2016 production goal is a fraction of that. This is nothing new for Musk—but what’s the point of making deadlines you can’t meet?
A: Ashlee Vance’s 2015 biography of Musk revealed that he likely sets unrealistic expectations because, well, they yield results. As one SpaceX supplier told Vance:
“Elon showed up with [SpaceX Propulsion CTO] Tom Mueller and started telling us it was his destiny to launch things into space at lower costs and to help us become spacefaring people… They began asking us for the impossible. They wanted a turbo pump to be built in less than a year for under $1 million. Boeing might do a project like that over five years for $100 million. Tom told us to give it our best shot, and we built it in 13 months.”