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Elon Musk's Tesla Strategy: Win Big by Falling Short

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Can Tesla Meet 500,000 Vehicle Production Target?

Tesla Motors Inc.'s chief executive officer, Elon Musk, is known for making the future come early. Yet somehow he's always running behind schedule. Some would call this a failure of management, but it might just be a business strategy. Call it the Musk Doctrine.

It goes something like this: People do paradigm-shifting work only when they’re under tremendous pressure, so the key is to ensure deadlines are always impossible. This could help explain why Musk has never launched a product on time, yet no one seems able to keep up with him. It drives Wall Street nuts.

Musk, 44, tipped his hand on this winning-through-failure strategy last week when he set the launch date for Tesla's widely anticipated Model 3 electric car astonishingly early: July 1, 2017. But not really, Musk explained.

"Now, will we actually be able to achieve volume production on July 1 next year? Of course not," he said on Tesla's earnings call. "In order for us to be confident of achieving volume production of Model 3 by late 2017, we actually have to set a date of mid-2017 and really hold people's feet to the fire, internally and externally."

Calling His Own Bluffs

What makes Musk's deadline bluffs unusual is that he makes them public and lets investors hold him to account...


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