But, while his grand gestures inspire awe and curiosity, they often fall short in the execution. Since 2011, Tesla has failed to meet Musk’s product-launch, production, and financial-performance promises more than twenty times, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal. Even a private showing, in early January, of Tesla’s new Gigafactory, in Storey County, Nevada—which Musk claims is on schedule to mass-produce lithium-ion batteries at rock-bottom costs by 2018—didn’t instill confidence in Musk’s ability to achieve his stated goals. As the Pacific Crest Securities research analyst Brad Erickson said in a note, the tour left “much to the imagination.”

And in September an explosion destroyed an unmanned SpaceX rocket on the launch pad during a fuelling exercise—an incident that called into question the viability of Musk’s radical notion to refuel craft en route, with astronauts on board. A little more than a year earlier, a NASA-funded SpaceX rocket carrying cargo destined for the International Space Station exploded two minutes after lift-off, destroying the payload. A NASA report on that incident raised questions about quality standards at Musk’s company.

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