Elon Musk might be doing some weird stuff — but that’s nothing new for the car business

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has never been a normal or predictable leader. But the past few months have been notably odd, even by his standards.

I’ve followed Tesla for over ten years, so I haven’t been as fazed by some observers of Musk’s conduct. You just don’t undertake something so foolhardy and statistically improbable as creating a new American car company from scratch by sticking to the CEO script. And Musk has rarely stuck to the script, preferring to improvise while innovating.

Ever since his infamous go-private tweet broke, however, an alarming new element has been added to criticism of Musk. The argument edges into suggesting that he’s done things that are somehow morally wrong, rather than ethically questionable. He should, therefore, be punished, perhaps by the SEC, certainly by the markets.

This is nonsense. If Musk wanted to attempt to take Tesla private, as the CEO and an owner of 20% of the company, he was entitled to both give it a shot and fail trying. That’s just business. The scoldings look pretty Church Lady, as if Musk should go on TV an profess contrition and promise to never be bad again.

As for the ill-advised tweets and the pot-smoking … well, why don’t we look at some other famous characters in the car business to see how they handled themselves?