‘This car is nuts, ’ Musk said while unveiling the Tesla D on Thursday evening, in his usually flamboyantly cool theatre. Photograph: LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS
On Thursday night, Elon Musk announced a new two-motor car that everyone is interested in. It parks itself and can turn on its own air conditioning, sure, but people are interested in it because Elon Musk said it’s interesting – or at least because he teased on Twitter that he was about to “unveil the D”, which made people laugh. (He said it made him laugh, too, which is probably true, but maybe not.)
Sometimes the marketing is only a man.
Such men come along every so often: an iconoclast with so much personal presence, so much audacity for “disruption” that it’s said they can build an entire revolution on the weight of their own shoulders – and sometimes they actually do. Their names resonate through the masturbatory websites of marketing gurus: Thomas Edison. PT Barnum. Henry Ford. Howard Hughes. They all dominated, even if they were all a little bit crazy, because they started from scratch and were stubborn enough to see it through. Such tenacity is inherently selfish, an ego trip that can shape industrial history.
Musk has made his car company – and his space company – all about himself. He has bought into – and sold – his role as the modern day Tony Stark, the inventor who built and wears the only version of the Iron Man suit he invented all by himself.
I have requested many interviews with the many employees of SpaceX – engineers, retired astronauts, thruster designers The response has almost always been: Elon or nobody.
Musk does the press conferences after his rockets launch. He discusses his own burial on Mars. He discusses his commute and he walks people through the details of his Tesla electric vehicles, as he did on Thursday night. “This car is nuts, ” he said at an airport hanger in Los Angeles. “It’s like your own personal rollercoaster.” These are his companies, his rides, his shows – Elon Musk, he will tell you, is the basis of their rise or fall. None of which is true, strictly, but it makes for flamboyantly cool theatre.
In a way, this is smart: In a world awash with too many “brands”, every product and service has a public face (often behoodied and incredibly boring), a Twitter account (often .
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