'I Don't See How This Could Hurt Me' Says Elon Musk, Head-Butting Car: Report

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Stories on the inner-workings of Elon Musk’s mind have been flowing like wine in recent days, thanks to the Tesla CEO’s botched attempt at taking the company private. The latest comes by way of the Wall Street Journal, which sets the scene with a cheery anecdote about the one time Musk (purportedly) head-butted a car to refute that the company’s assembly line needed to be stopped for safety.

The incident dates to a springtime tour of Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, when—according to the Journal—Musk asked why his assembly line had come to a stop.


Per the Journal:

Managers said automatic safety sensors halted the line whenever people got in the way.

Mr. Musk became angry, according to people familiar with what happened. His high-profile gamble on mass-producing electric cars had lagged behind since production began, and here was one more frustration. The billionaire entrepreneur began head-butting the front end of a car on the assembly line.

“I don’t see how this could hurt me,” he said of vehicles on the slow-speed line. “I want the cars to just keep moving.”


A senior engineering manager then told Musk that it was a safety measure, according to the Journal’s report. Musk didn’t buy it, and reportedly told the employee to “Get out!”

Tesla rebuffed the head-butting claim in a response to the Journal and offered that

Musk, in a safety hat, had tapped, not head-butted, the car on the assembly line that day, and that the system was adjusted without jeopardizing safety.


Tesla added to Jalopnik that the equipment changed wasn’t necessary, and employees on the line were consulted before making the adjustment. The change, Tesla said, was supported and tested by safety equipment specialists and control engineers, and is compliant with OSHA regulations.

The WSJ’s story is generating some buzz for yet another round of Musk’s off-the-cuff remarks, like this:

Mr. Musk said his actions and rapid decision-making can be misunderstood as erratic behavior. “It is better to make many decisions per unit time with a slightly higher error rate, than few with a slightly lower error rate,” he said last weekend in a series of emails with The Wall Street Journal, “because obviously one of your future right decisions can be to reverse an earlier wrong one, provided the earlier one was not catastrophic, which they rarely are.”


A Tesla spokesperson had no comment on the story when reached by Jalopnik.