With the Model X now being delivered in Europe and Asia, there are a lot of cars in transit.

Was Tesla CEO Elon Musk Right to Cancel VC Capitalist Stewart Alsop’s Model X Order? #YouTellUs

As far as influential forward-thinkers of the twenty-first century, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk — who also happens to be CEO of SpaceX, the world’s first successful commercial spaceflight company — is one of the greats. Indeed his involvement with Tesla, space travel, renewable energy and even new forms of transportation has earned him the same kind of reverenced respect as the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple.

Just like Jobs and so many other intelligent, driven business leaders throughout history, Musk isn’t one to suffer fools gladly. From the press calls we’ve sat in on when Musk has shut down an reporter for asking an inappropriate question to tales from former Tesla employees detailing Musk’s expectation that they give as much to the company as he does, it’s fairly well known that you don’t want to get on Musk’s bad side.

Tesla's launch event for the Model X irked VC Stewart Alsop, so he wrote Musk a strongly-worded letter.

Tesla’s launch event for the Model X irked VC Stewart Alsop, so he wrote Musk a strongly-worded letter.

Yet that’s exactly what happened to Californian venture capitalist Stewart Alsop recently when he discovered that Tesla Motors had cancelled his order for a brand-new all-electric Tesla Model X luxury SUV.

As The Guardian reports, Alsop first got himself into hot water with the Tesla CEO when he wrote an open letter to Musk on microblogging site Medium back in September, complaining that the Tesla Model X Launch event was badly run, late, and inconsiderate to Tesla’s existing and prospective customers.

In response, Musk has cancelled Alsop's Model X order.

In response, Musk has cancelled Alsop’s Model X order.

“It’s bad enough that your event producers couldn’t actually produce an event — the so-called Model X Launch Event,” reads the opening paragraph of the letter entitled Dear @Elon Musk: You should be ashamed of yourself. “Starting a 7:00pm event at 8:50pm is simply unacceptable, particularly when the invited guests are actually your customers! But for you to stand up at 8:52pm and not even acknowledge that you have wasted your own customers’ time was insensitive and poor judgement,” it continues.

While Alsop’s post carried on in a similar vein, arguing that the lack of food, long test-drive wait and overcrowded venue had angered him and ultimately reflected badly on the Californian automaker, he finished the post by noting that despite his frustrations, he had gone ahead and ordered a Model X.

“Now I’m wondering. Should I be proud and boastful of being a Model X customer?” he asked. “Should I wonder if there are other problems in managing Tesla as a company? Is this a marketing failure or do you treat your customers like this after they get their car? I never did see the Model X. I still really want one…It’s a computer, disguised as a beautiful car, just like I want. It probably won’t matter that you screwed up this event completely. It would still be nice if you showed some class and apologized to the people who believe in this product.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Tesla had found itself dealing with an angry customer. While they’re few and far between, they do exist — and we’ve encountered a few ourselves over the years. But rather than ignore Alsop’s ranting (and take his money anyway), Alsop says that Musk called him personally, and told him that his order was cancelled.

Alsop said he had ordered the P90D with ludicrous mode and black seats.

Alsop said he had ordered the P90D with ludicrous mode and black seats.

In a followup post, posted on February 1st and entitled Banned By Tesla!, Alsop thanks Musk for calling him and explaining that he “was not comfortable” with Alsop owning a Tesla vehicle after his previous post, something which Alsop relays that Musk felt “was a personal attack.” Describing himself as “terribly disappointed” that Musk had cancelled his Model X order — which was a red P90D with black leather seats and Ludicrous mode — Alsop expresses regret that he won’t be able to “participate in the automobile revolution that Tesla started,” and concludes that “I’m likely to just keep driving my irritating BMW X1.”

Despite his obvious disappointment in the Model X launch event, the cancelled order and what he claims is a lack of marketing department at Tesla Motors, Alsop does take time out to praise Musk for creating a car company which has innovated on almost every aspect of the auto industry today, has challenged “hateful and intimidating” sales practices common elsewhere in the automotive world, and “created a really beautiful and amazing car along the way.”

For his part in the debacle, Musk took to his favourite social media platform Twitter late last night to express his frustration in the media attention the story was getting, referring simply to Alsop as a “super rude customer.”

In covering the story, Alex Hern of The Gudardian calls Musk’s behavior “unbelievably petty,” while MarketWatch’s Victor Reklaitis chooses to make some less-than-subtle allusions between Musk and Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi (as played by Larry Thomas).

If we're honest, we feel both men have a part in taking the blame for this.

If we’re honest, we feel both men have a part in taking the blame for this.

Here at Transport Evolved? We’re going to sit on the fence, and point out a few things that we feel is pertinent.

First of all, taking your grievances, however small, onto the Internet is bound to get a lot of attention. Alsop even acknowledges the fact in his blog posts on the subject. And while airing your frustrations online is a great way to get customer service, it can sometimes backfire. Badly.

Second, while Alsop’s post may have had the best of intentions, it perhaps may have been better for him to have addressed those concerns to Musk personally, either via email or through a letter delivered to Tesla. In a world where anything said online is super-difficult to take back, we can’t help but think there’s at least some blame to be laid at Alsop’s feet. After all, if you’d criticised a company very publicly online, would you expect that same company to take your money? What if you continued to be a difficult customer? Or what if things just went downhill from there?

We're surprised Musk went to such lengths, but then again, Alsop's actions weren't particularly tactful.

We’re surprised Musk went to such lengths, but then again, Alsop’s actions weren’t particularly tactful.

Wouldn’t it be less risky, at least from a long-term standpoint, to try and dissuade the customer from picking your product? Again, we don’t think this excuses Musk’s actions here. Alsop should have thought twice before airing his grievances so publicly, while Musk could have stepped back from what seems to be a harsh knee-jerk reaction.

As for Tesla’s notoriously late timing? It’s become something of a joke in the automotive world and the plug-in community. We’ve yet to see a press event or launch event from Tesla that has started on time. Even the usually punctual investor calls and subsequent press Q&A sessions can be marginally tardy. And while that certainly doesn’t excuse it — and we’ll admit is a frustration for many in the plug-in world — it’s certainly become an expected part of any Tesla event.

Here, we can see blame on both sides, and perhaps a little less talking than we would have liked. If both men were children, we’d be sitting them down on the round mat and teaching them how to play nicely. But as we’re sure you know, the real world isn’t like Kindergarten.

Do you think Musk was right to halt Alsop’s order? Was Alsop acting inappropriately when he aired his grievances with Tesla in a very public way? Who do you think is to blame — and how would you have liked the situation to have been resolved?

Leave your carefully-written thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • CDspeed

    If I were lucky enough to have been at the hottest car launch of 2015, and been put off by a few missteps. I would have written to the company directly, in a politely disappointed tone. And made suggestions in hopes that future premiers go better. I would never have publicly shamed the CEO, and call the entire company into question. I was put off by the Model S launch, I do like to see and drive a car before I make a deposit. So I wrote in suggestions, no big deal. The customer in question publicly insulted Tesla, and as a result he lost his place in line, misbehaving children need to learn some how. Go Elon 👍🏼

  • BEP

    In that post, Alsop basically states that he doesn’t care about the safety of his car. In my opinion, that is enough to classify him as an idiot who cannot set the right priorities.

  • Jeff Songster

    When you use the net to nuke someone… you cannot expect to be dealt with kindly. I did tech support for a decade or so… and I never ceased to be amazed at the difference between the folks and how rude they were over the phone or online… and then I would run into them at a trade show and they blushed… and apologized at their rudeness. Stewart Alsop should have known better. He is an older timer than I and has been on the net like me… since the 70s… so if he wants a car… seems to me he should make an even more public apology for over raking the event and embarrassing Musk and Tesla… and otherwise enjoy your bimmer. Bummer.

  • vdiv

    None of this was necessary and it could have easily been avoided. Musk did the right thing. I see driving the Model X as a privilidge and a responsibility. If Alsop is not going to exercise ether and hurt the company then Musk, responsible to the customers, employees, and ok shareholders, is compelled to act.

  • Matt Beard

    So, someone known to react badly when he doesn’t get everything his way reacted badly when he didn’t get everything his way. He aimed his temper at someone also known to react badly to criticism and acts surprised when that person reacts in a similar way.

    Not ideal, but predictable and a little sad. Fault on both sides, but when you poke a grumpy dog with a stick how much right do you have to complain when it bites you?

  • Mark Melocco

    Like Nikki I can see blame on both sides. It’s pretty evident that Tesla is struggling with the amount of interest in significant launch events like this, but public shaming is almost never the answer.
    I attended the Australian launch event in December 2014 and it was run very professionally and the food and drink was of a high standard, but access to the event was by invitation only so the numbers were more controlled which I think was key. That and we didn’t have to wait for the busiest man in the world Elon Musk.
    I have a suggestion for the next big Tesla Launch event to charge $50 per person to attend and give all of the proceeds to charity. That way you may significantly cut down the numbers, gain credit for charitable works and actually do some good outside the Tesla mission.

  • blackandwhiteohana

    Much less a Elon fan now…
    Currently not interested in a Model 3 anymore…

    • Bit of a fair weather friend, huh?

    • Bloggsy

      You won’t be missed in the rush to get one

  • …the opening lines of this article felt like watching the author give Musk a blowjob!

    I dont care if he was a super-rude customer…he was a customer.

    Surely Mr Glory Hound Musk would have said after Aslop drove away in his Model X “well well well…looks like youre all for my lovely new car after all Mr Negativity”.

    But no…taking your ball and going home…brilliant.

    Tesla is so f**ked!

  • Bloggsy

    Elon Musk can sell to whom he wants. At the end of the day Alsop acted like a ranting and raving customer in a shop who eventually gets asked to leave.

  • Charlie Shin

    Question “Do you think Musk was right” is not correct! It should be “Is it legal for Elon Mask to ban customer (maybe even shareholder) from buying a car. Also is it legal for Elon Mask to ban customer from buying TSLA shares?
    One thing for sure if TSLA “reputation” is SO important to Mark – it can only mean one thing – foundation of TSLA is very very shaky.

    • Jeremy

      Private Company can do what it wants for sales. as long as he got his money back after signing the statement that says Tesla for any reason seen or unseen may cancel your order then he has no leg to stand on.

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