2023 was a year of contrasts for Elon Musk, whose ventures experienced both highs and lows. While Tesla, his flagship company, saw its shares more than double, recouping losses from a challenging 2022, the year was not without its problems.
Tesla topped its annual sales record in just the first three quarters and finally launched the much-anticipated Cybertruck. However, the path was not smooth. Tesla had to implement a series of price cuts to maintain demand in the face of growing competition in the electric vehicle market, which squeezed its profit margins.
The production of the Cybertruck, although underway, was cautioned by Musk as a significant challenge, especially in reaching volume production and becoming cash flow positive at an affordable price. Further complicating Tesla's journey, federal safety regulators mandated a recall of over 2 million vehicles in the US to limit the use of its Autopilot system, citing safety concerns.
This move came after years of Musk’s ambitious promises of fully-autonomous robotaxis. Another significant recall involved nearly all of Tesla's 363,000 US vehicles equipped with its "Full Self Driving" software. Despite these setbacks, Tesla defended its Autopilot feature, asserting that safety metrics were stronger when the system was engaged.
SpaceX's Starship Setbacks
SpaceX, Musk's space exploration company, faced its challenges with the Starship program. The uncrewed test flights of the deep-space rocket system, which Musk had once envisioned as carrying people to the moon and Mars, ended in explosions – not once, but twice.
SpaceX maintained that these incidents would enhance the rocket system's reliability, emphasizing learning from failures in its journey to make life multiplanetary.
Controversies at X, Formerly Twitter
The most turbulent of Musk's ventures in 2023 was X, the social media platform he acquired in late 2022.
The platform faced a significant advertiser exodus due to concerns about its management under Musk's ownership. Sales reportedly dropped by 60%, leading Musk to threaten legal action against the Anti-Defamation League. Musk's retweet of a controversial post and subsequent remarks to advertisers reflected the difficulties in managing brand safety and public relations.
In an attempt to revitalize the platform, Musk appointed Linda Yaccarino, a former NBCUniversal marketing executive, as CEO. However, his actions, including inviting controversial and previously banned users back to the platform, continued to cause rifts with advertisers.