Tesla could use more of Elon Musk’s focus, former board member says

Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX and owner of X Holdings Corp., speaks at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel,on May 6, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California. 
Apu Gomes | Getty Images

Tesla could use more of high-profile CEO Elon Musk’s divided focus at a critical juncture for the electric vehicle industry, former board member Steve Westly said Thursday.

“For any CEO of any of the top companies in the world, you need to be laser-focused on what you’re doing. And it appears now that Mr. Musk’s focus is in too many areas,” Westly told CNBC at the annual VivaTech conference in Paris.

Westly said Musk’s waning focus was part of the reason why Tesla was lagging behind its “Magnificent Seven” counterparts, and noted that Musk would be wise to follow the leadership example of tech darling Nvidia.

“If you look at people like Jensen Huang — who is arguably the greatest CEO in the world right now, continuing to bang out superior results — focus is the key. Tesla could use more of it,” said Westly, who is managing director of venture capital firm The Westly Group and an early Tesla investor.

Recent sagas around staff layoffs and Musk’s pay have added to the mounting distractions facing the serial entrepreneur, with a recent revenue miss suggesting the company has “lost ground,” he added.

Just how much of a liability Musk is for Tesla, however, Westly said was “for the board to decide.”

Despite this, he flagged Tesla’s ability to bring new products in an increasingly competitive market, noting that a newly announced $25,000 low-cost Tesla model could arrive by early 2025.

“Don’t bet against the guy [Musk], he’s got a pretty good track record,” Westly said.

CNBC has reached out to Tesla for comment.

Tesla disappointed investors last month with its biggest quarterly revenue decline since 2012, adding to negative news for the company after it announced a more than 10% reduction in staff headcount.

Meanwhile, Musk’s concurrent commitments at his various other ventures, including SpaceX, X, Neuralink and The Boring Company, have sparked a dispute over the merits of the entrepreneur’s bumper $56 billion Tesla pay package.

Tesla’s slowdown comes at a critical moment for the electric car industry, amid increased competition and a growing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing over perceived Chinese subsidies. Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden slapped fresh 100% tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, starting this year, in a move he said was to prevent China “dumping” cheap products into the market.

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