BUSINESS

Elon Musk Is Feuding With Yet Another Person Who Dared Criticize Tesla

This time it's a financial journalist who asked about the deadly "Autopilot" crash.

Elon Musk is once again feuding publicly with a reporter who said something he didn't like.

The Tesla chief on Monday criticized a veteran financial journalist at Fortune magazine for implying that his electric automaker acted unethically by taking two months to publicly disclose a deadly crash in one of its semi-autonomous cars.

Just 11 days after the May 7 crash -- in which a Tesla driver died while reportedly watching a movie while using his Model S sedan's "Autopilot" function on a Florida highway -- Tesla sold more than $2 billion of stock at a price of $215 per share. 

"To put things baldly, Tesla and Musk did not disclose the very material fact that a man had died while using an auto-pilot technology that Tesla had marketed vigorously as safe and important to its customers," Carol J. Loomis, a former senior editor-at-large who spent 60 years at the venerable financial glossy, wrote in a story published Tuesday morning.

After emailing back and forth with Tesla public relations managers, she said Musk joined the thread.

Elon Musk himself suddenly entered the email conversation. He first thought, mistakenly, that Fortune was criticizing the price at which Tesla and he had sold stock. This writer replied that was not the case and that the issue was the non-disclosure of a material fact. That, Musk replied in a second e-mail, “is not material to the value of Tesla.”

He continued, “Indeed, if anyone bothered to do the math (obviously, you did not) they would realize that of the over 1M auto deaths per year worldwide, approximately half a million people would have been saved if the Tesla autopilot was universally available. Please, take 5 mins and do the bloody math before you write an article that misleads the public.”

Musk pointed to the fact that the stock price actually rose on Friday, after Tesla made public the news of the crash -- and a federal investigation into it -- in a blog post the night before.

Fortune did not responded to a request for further comment. 

Musk did, however, respond to Fortune editor Alan Murray on Twitter:

In an email, a Tesla spokeswoman told The Huffington Post: "Elon's comments are the comment." 

The timing couldn't be worse for Tesla. The company on Sunday reported that it missed its delivery target for the second quarter of the year. The announcement came just weeks after Tesla made a bid to buy solar energy firm SolarCity, a deal Wall Street so far seems to hate.

Tesla's stock price plummeted on Tuesday following news two days earlier that the company missed its second-quarter delivery
Tesla's stock price plummeted on Tuesday following news two days earlier that the company missed its second-quarter delivery target.

It's not the first time Musk has publicly criticized a reporter, a move that sometimes courts negative coverage and heightened skepticism.

But Musk isn't like other chief executives. He embraces his celebrity. He speaks off the cuff to reporters about topics that seem straight out of a sci-fi novel, affording him John Oliver-esque amounts of headlines on the internet. He seems to believe that he has made himself a force for good in the world by bringing affordable electric cars and solar energy to market just as climate change begins to reach crisis levels.

In February 2013, Musk launched a scorched-earth rebuttal against a New York Times reviewer whose Model S ran out of battery on a journey up the East Coast. The reporter, John M. Broder, failed to abide by Tesla's speed guidelines for long-haul journeys, according to data collected by the company. The newspaper's public editor at the time admitted Broder did not "use good judgment along the way." 

After last year's publication of Ashlee Vance's landmark Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future -- the most definitive biography of the billionaire yet -- Musk, a prolific tweeter, called one of the book's most shocking anecdotes "total BS." Musk is reportedly not speaking to Vance, a top writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, anymore.  

This post has been updated with a comment from Tesla.

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