Tesla could use more of Elon Musk's focus, former board member says

Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX and owner of X Holdings Corp., speaks at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel,on May 6, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California. 

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Tesla could use more of high-profile CEO Elon Musk’s divided focus at a critical juncture for the electric vehicle industry, former board member Steve Westly said Thursday.

“For any CEO of any of the top companies in the world, you need to be laser-focused on what you’re doing. And it appears now that Mr. Musk’s focus is in too many areas,” Westly told CNBC at the annual VivaTech conference in Paris.

Westly said Musk’s waning focus was part of the reason why Tesla was lagging behind its “Magnificent Seven” counterparts, and noted that Musk would be wise to follow the leadership example of tech darling Nvidia .

“If you look at people like Jensen Huang — who is arguably the greatest CEO in the world right now, continuing to bang out superior results — focus is the key. Tesla could use more of it,” said Westly, who is managing director of venture capital firm The Westly Group and an early Tesla investor.

Recent sagas around staff layoffs and Musk’s pay have added to the mounting distractions facing the serial entrepreneur, with a recent revenue miss suggesting the company has “lost ground,” he added.

Just how much of a liability Musk is for Tesla, however, Westly said was “for the board to decide.”

Westly personally predicted that Tesla would bring a new $25,000 car to the market by next year without citing any evidence such a vehicle is in the works. He said, “I think it’ll be a big seller.” Tesla recently scrapped plans for a new low-cost EV, Reuters reported.

During a first-quarter earnings call, Musk offered vague details about Tesla’s plans for new models. He only said Tesla was planning to start production of “new vehicles, including more affordable models,” on its existing factory lines. He did not give specs or pricing for these EVs.

“Don’t bet against the guy [Musk], he’s got a pretty good track record,” Westly said.

CNBC has reached out to Tesla for comment.

Tesla disappointed investors last month with its biggest quarterly revenue decline since 2012, adding to negative news for the company after it announced a more than 10% reduction quarterly revenue decline since 2012, adding to negative news for the company after it announced a more than

Meanwhile, Musk’s concurrent commitments at his various other ventures, including SpaceX, X, Neuralink and The Boring Company, have sparked the pay package .

Tesla’s slowdown comes at a critical moment for the electric car industry, amid increased competition and a growing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing over perceived Chinese subsidies. Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden slapped fresh 100% tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, starting this year, in a move he said was to prevent China “dumping” cheap products into the market.

— CNBC’s Lora Kolodny contributed to this article.

Correction: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Tesla’s communications on possible lower-cost models.