Among his other high-technology pursuits, billionaire Elon Musk is the acclaimed chief executive of Tesla Motors.
But after the Sept. 29 launch of the Tesla Model X, an all-electric crossover, he became embroiled in a seemingly petty argument with a California venture capitalist.
Stewart Alsop, a partner with Alsop Louie Partners, says that he's a fan of the vehicle, calling it "a computer, disguised as a beautiful car, just like I want." He'd also already deposited $5,000 US for a pre-order.
Alsop just didn't like the way it was presented during the launch, and he made that clear in a blog post the same night, titled "Dear @ElonMusk: You should be ashamed of yourself."
He wrote that the launch began around an hour and a half late, didn't offer any food, despite occurring near dinner time, and began with a slide show about the car's safety features.
Alsop then described leaving disappointed by 9 p.m. without having seen the car in person.
"It probably won't matter that you screwed up this event completely," he wrote. "It would still be nice if you showed some class and apologized to the people who believe in this product."
However, Musk not only didn't apologize, Alsop wrote in another blog post, he cancelled Alsop's pre-order of a Model X.
On Feb. 2, Alsop said that after a brief conversation with the entrepreneur, Musk had called the earlier post a personal attack. Musk also apparently argued that the event had only been 30 minutes late.
But the key point of the discussion appears to have been that Musk was "not comfortable" with Alsop owning a Tesla vehicle, and had therefore cancelled his order.
Musk wrote on Twitter that he was bewildered that this decision had attracted so much attention.
Must be a slow news day if denying service to a super rude customer gets this much attention— @elonmusk
Alsop, previously the editor in chief with the technology magazine InfoWorld, has had experience with disgruntled CEOs. This time, however, he wrote that he was just acting as a consumer, pointing out that he's complained plenty about his current car, a BMW X1.
"I am a little taken aback to be banned by Tesla," he wrote. "When I wrote a blog post about my BMW X1 called "My Car Makes Me Feel Stoopid," the CEO of BMW didn't take the car back."
Many online have taken Musk's response to be overly harsh.
If this is true I'm less bullish on TSLA. It shows a degree of small-mindedness incompatible with huge success. https://t.co/cJjcJLHBXw— @paulg
Given that Musk has an estimated net worth of almost $12 billion US, according to Forbes, losing one sale won't make any difference, especially since Tesla has been having trouble delivering the new Model X.
Despite consumer interest, by the end of the fourth quarter, only 206 Model X vehicles had been delivered, reported Jalopnik.
The founder of the prestigious Y-Combinator mentorship and funding program, Paul Graham, suggested Musk's reaction might have wider implications for Tesla's future.
@elonmusk As with Tesla's current sales, this episode is interesting less for its own sake than for what it implies about the future.— @paulg