How Elon Musk predicted failure for Tesla and proved himself wrong

Despite his success, Elon Musk hasn’t always expected to come this far. Today, he’s the world’s wealthiest person, but in the past, he found his companies nearing bankruptcy more than once. Musk skyrocketed his way to colossal success through his companies Tesla, SpaceX, and others, but his achievements actually began with predictions of failure.

Elon Musk has said multiple times in the past that he didn’t expect Tesla to succeed, as reports. Now, it’s the dominant force in the electric vehicle space with a market capitalization floating around a trillion dollars. This makes Tesla more valuable than all other auto companies combined, and if that isn’t success, then who knows what is.

Volkswagen and Toyota each produce roughly 10 times as many cars as Tesla, so it’s hard to imagine what continued production upgrades could do for the company’s value. Earlier this year, Tesla opened its newest U.S. Gigafactory, in addition to its first in Europe. The Austin, Texas factory held an opening event in April, complete with 15,000 fans.

"When we first started out at Tesla, I thought maybe we had — optimistically — a 10 percent chance of succeeding," Musk said in a speech at Tesla’s Giga Austin-opening Cyber Rodeo in April.

Musk shared similar thoughts in an interview on a 2019 podcast, saying he didn’t expect Tesla to become as successful as it did.

"I never really thought before it actually happened that it would be that successful," said Musk.

However, some of his doubts were well-founded in the early days, as Tesla squared up against automakers over a century old. Musk has also spoken explicitly about how difficult scaling production is for vehicles, and it didn’t help that the competition had massive manufacturing abilities.

"Prototypes are easy. Production is hard,” said Musk at the Cyber Rodeo. In the past, he has also noted how the Model 3 brought Tesla within a month of bankruptcy upon launch, while it was stuck in what he called “production and logistics hell.”

Musk has echoed his appreciation for his team throughout his time at Tesla. And at the Cyber Rodeo event, he cited this as the way Tesla became what it is today.

"Thanks to the incredible work of the Tesla team, over many years, we got here," Musk said.

Perhaps Musk’s combination of ambition and low expectations also played a role in his future success. Musk and Tesla focused on a basic idea from the beginning, and it has proved itself true over time: building electric cars is possible, and people will buy them.

With EV adoption points reaching a tipping point in the U.S. this year, it’s safe to say that some of Musk’s predictions of Tesla’s failure have proved themselves wrong.