Tesla would consider buying the factories General Motors said it intends to idle, CEO Elon Musk said in an interview that aired on “60 Minutes” Sunday night.
“It’s possible that we would be interested. If they were going to sell a plant or not use it that we would take it over,” he said.
In a wide-ranging interview with 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl, Musk made no apologies for his erratic behavior over the summer and reiterated his lack of respect for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which sued him in September for allegedly defrauding investors after tweeting that he wanted to take the company public at $420 a share and had “funding secured.” He didn’t and pulled back on those plans a few weeks later.
“Nobody’s perfect,” he said.
Musk acknowledged that he was “somewhat impulsive,” adding that he “didn’t really want to try to adhere to some CEO template.” He stoked controversy all summer with his erratic behavior, taunting the SEC, calling a diver in the Thai cave rescue a “pedo” and capping the summer by smoking pot on the Joe Rogan podcast.
“I’m just being me. I mean, I was certainly under insane stress and crazy, crazy hours. But the system would have failed if I was truly erratic,” Musk said.
The SEC forced Musk to step down as chairman of the board for three years. The company named Robyn Denholm, who was already on the board, as chairwoman.
“I want to be clear: I do not respect the SEC,” Musk said. “I do not respect them.” But he said he was adhering to the agreement because he respects the U.S. justice system.
He scoffed at the idea that Denholm was put in place to keep him in line. “Yeah. It– it’s not realistic in the sense that I am the largest shareholder in the company. And I can just call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want,” Musk said.
Tesla has struggled to ramp up production of its much hyped Model 3 mid-size sedan. The company resorted to building a second assembly line inside a tent-like structure next to its main assembly plant in Fremont, California. The decision, like many Tesla has made, was ridiculed by some in the industry.
The last-minute push increased production by 50 percent, Musk told 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl.
“Those betting against the company were right by all conventional standards that we would fail,” he said, “but they just did not count on this unconventional situation of creating a second assembly in the parking lot in a tent.”
GM’s decision to cut production at several plants and eliminate 14,000 jobs has caused anger and worry among lawmakers, labor leaders and people in the regions that depend on the factories for work. Some say GM’s decision is a necessary step to ensure the company’s future as it grapples with changing consumer tastes, new technologies and new potential competitors, including Tesla.
The possible plant closures present an opportunity to Tesla. It wouldn’t be the first time Tesla bought a GM plant. The Tesla Factory in Fremont, California is a former GM plant that closed in 2010 but reopened later that year under Musk.
Under the terms of the settlement, Musk had to pay a $20 million fine and step down as Tesla chairman for a period of at least three years. Tesla also put in place a system for monitoring Musk’s statements to the public about the company, whether on Twitter, blog posts or any other medium.
Musk said the only tweets that need to be approved are ones that can move the stock price. He said he uses Twitter to express himself. “Some people use their hair,” he said, “I used Twitter.”
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