For Elon Musk, June couldn’t have ended fast enough

With his stakes in Tesla and SolarCity, Elon Musk is worth billions of dollars. He could buy anything he wants.

Make that almost anything. Because during the month of June, Musk couldn’t buy a break.

June was a rough 30 days for Musk, who seemed to have a new fire to put out nearly every day. The latest, and possibly most detrimental blaze he’s had to fight came Thursday, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would open a preliminary investigation into a fatal car accident in Florida that involved a Tesla Model S car whose owner was using the car’s Autopilot feature.

The NHTSA’s investigation comes at a crucial time for the concept of driverless car technologies, as not only car manufacturers are working on autos that can drive themselves, but companies such as Google and Intel and investing millions of research dollars in the concept.

Tesla said in a statement on its company blog that the fatality, which occurred in May, was a “tragic” loss. However, Tesla also noted that it was the first known fatality among more than 130 million miles of driving in which its Autopilot function had been activated.

The death involving the Tesla Model S would be bad enough on its own, but it also happened after the NHTSA reported it was looking into safety issues involving the suspension of the Model S. The NHTSA said Tesla had buyers sign non-disclosure agreements in which the company offered to pay for the cost of repairs if car owners didn’t reporting any safety matters with their vehicles.

Adding to Musk’s stressful month was his plan for Tesla to acquire solar panel technology company SolarCity for $2.8 billion. For many investors, the problem with that deal was that Musk, who in addition to being Tesla’s CEO, is SolarCity’s chairman and the largest shareholder in both companies — he owns approximately 19 percent of Tesla and 21 percent of SolarCity — and that Tesla’s ownership of SolarCity could give Musk too much influence over both companies.

Tesla’s shares have regained some of their momentum in the past week, but are still down by almost 5 percent over the past month, and 3.3 percent since the company announced the plan to acquire SolarCity on June 21.

With all that transpired in June, a three-day weekend courtesy of Monday’s Independence Day holiday may provide Musk with a much-needed breather. But that’s only because federal agencies and the stock market will be closed Monday. Come Tuesday, Musk will probably be back at it, dealing with investors’ concerns and investigators’ questions.

Photo: Tesla CEO Elon Musk. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

 

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  • 130 million miles without a fatality. Human drivers have a fatality every 80 million miles on average. No system is perfect. Posted to the Elon Musk facebook group http://www.facebook.com/groups/ElonMusk

  • Cheap & Nothing Wasted

    According to the latest reports, the driver of the Tesla who died was watching a Harry Potter movie on a portable DVD player.
    http://jalopnik.com/man-killed-in-self-driving-tesla-was-watching-harry-pot-1782935648

  • Dave

    Interesting article, but can you please proof read it before publishing it? There are a couple of grammatical errors which sort of dulls the article a bit. For example, “…the company offered to pay for the cost of repairs if car owners didn’t reporting any safety matters with their vehicles.”

 
 
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