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Documentary from CNBC recounts Tesla’s fascinating history
Posted on March 28, 2020 by Charles Morris
I’ve seen more than a few histories of Tesla, (and even written one myself), but like a superhero origin story, it’s a tale that never seems to get old. The latest effort from CNBC includes various participants, critics (both bulls and bears), as well as recognized talking heads from the network. While it was produced before the COVID-19 crisis, it remains a fairly up-to-date look at where the company is going and where's it's been.
Above: Tesla's Model 3 (Source: EVANNEX; Photo by: Casey Murphy)
The documentary includes a fascinating chat with Tesla founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. The two pioneers recount how they came up with a strategy to get an electric car to market (at that time a seemingly insane undertaking), and how they originally hooked up with Elon Musk, one of the few people in the VC world who had the vision to see what they were trying to do.
Eberhard and Tarpenning should get their due, and this documentary lets them tell the story in their own words. Many accounts highlight Elon Musk as the lone genius behind Tesla’s winning three-phase strategy to bring an affordable EV to market. However, as this chat with the two entrepreneurs makes clear, this was a collective plan at the outset, and all five founders were fully on board with it from the beginning (only later did controversial moves, personality clashes and management differences cause the split that led to Eberhard’s departure).
This video is well-supplied with rare old photos and video footage, including clips with Musk, as well as snippets from old CNBC news reports (some of these are pretty amusing in retrospect). There are also exclusive interviews featuring a variety of bears and bulls, including former Tesla employees, and journalists who’ve written about the company.
Above: CNBC recounts the history of Tesla (YouTube: CNBC)
CNBC gives plenty of space to the negative aspects of the company's history, including the Autopilot controversy and the various lawsuits. Yes, several disgruntled workers and stock skeptics get to have their say, but to its credit, CNBC doesn’t indulge any of the nut-case FUD merchants. (Some of the historical criticisms also seem very quaint in light of what has happened since.)
CNBC has had a rocky (sometimes questionable) history covering Tesla. But the producers attempted to cover a wide range of storylines and perspectives. Unlike many documentaries we’ve seen, which milk interviews from the same handful of celebs that everybody else has already interviewed, this one also features some players who aren’t well known to the public, but have unique insights—for example, freelance Tesla repairman Rich Benoit.
Tesla has always been a polarizing stock on Wall Street. Some at CNBC, are beginning to come around on Tesla. Overall, this is a wide-ranging documentary that contains a fair amount of new material. You might not agree with everything in it, but it certainly showcases why so many observers celebrate (or criticize) the company.