Dan Neil, he of the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism fame, has made a decent living peddling his automotive snark, and for good reason, as Neil is unquestionably one of the best and funniest at what we do. Tesla CEO Elon Musk – also an outspoken salesman of some merit – differs from Neil in one primary respect, which is that Musk is worth some $2 billion and thus doesn’t have to drive someone else’s cars around.
When these two agreed to resolve their disagreement over Tesla’s seemingly pie-in-the-sky production plans by means of a wager, those of us familiar with both affable egos were deeply amused. Neil most certainly did not expect to lose his end of the bet: That Tesla would fail in its promise to deliver its second model on time. What with the prevailing view at the time being that Tesla’s game plan was merely to get bought out by some larger entity and that the Model S was just vaporware, a means to that end, we probably would have gone with Neil had someone forced us to take sides. Of course, we can all learn a lesson here, which is that you don’t bet against the guy who owns the casino.
Musk and Tesla clearly kept up their end of the bargain, so Neil’s public mea culpa ran in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. He states that he’s made his $1,000 contribution to Doctors Without Borders, the penalty for the loss being far less than Musk’s promised $1 million debit. Neil’s pride is likely hurting more from the comeuppance than the cash outlay dented his savings account, but as he writes, “I lost, and happily so. As a proponent of electric mobility, I have said many times that I wanted to lose the bet… As a critic, I’ll reserve judgment on the Model S until I get a chance to drive it.”
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