cover image Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century

Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century

Tim Higgins. Doubleday, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-54545-7

The hidebound auto industry collides with the spirit of Silicon Valley in journalist Higgins’s colorful debut, a history of Tesla. Higgins recounts the company’s rise from shoestring start-up to the world’s most valuable automaker through many rounds of near-bankruptcy, last-minute funding miracles, and breakthroughs in the manufacture of electric vehicles. The company was founded in 2003 by engineer Martin Eberhard and his friend Marc Tarpenning, with Elon Musk as an early investor; power shifted hands multiple times before Musk became CEO in 2008. Billionaire Musk dominates the narrative: the irrepressible industrialist set visionary goals with impossible deadlines, improvised engineering fixes, raged at underlings, set managers to “clawing at each other in front of him,” headbutted a car on a stalled assembly line, and tweeted so many overly optimistic corporate predictions that the SEC came after him. Behind the shenanigans, Higgins takes an in-depth and well-balanced look at the interplay between Musk’s swashbuckling mindset of “building the airplane as [he] was heading down the runway” and the hardheadedness of Tesla’s veteran engineers and leaders, who understood the rigors of making cars that could kill people if they malfunctioned. The result is a sometimes appalling, occasionally inspiring, and always entertaining saga. [em]Agent: Eric Lupfer, Fletcher and Co. (Aug.) [/em]