Autonomous Vehicles

Published on May 6th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


Beware Of Forbes: Anti-Tesla Troll Mr. B.S. Lives There

May 6th, 2016 by  

There is a certain gentlemen infamous in Tesla enthusiast circles with the initials B.S. He is infamous for a couple of reasons: 1) you guessed it, spreading anti-Tesla B.S. that can quickly misinform unfortunate bystanders, and 2) refusing to eat a hat he promised to eat.

No doubt about it, Mr. B.S. is talented with words, a clever constructor of sentences, and has a long history in the automotive world: he was a top PR person at Volkswagen for decades. But don’t let fancy clothes trick you into thinking that a troll is a brave journalist.

Tesla Fremont factory 2The latest rant from Mr. B.S. contends that Elon Musk doesn’t know a thing about manufacturing. (Note that Elon Musk has had desks right next to the Model S and X production lines for years, and also keeps a sleeping bag on hand for times when it’s best for him to sleep on the production floor, and somehow oversaw the scaling up of an auto company like we haven’t seen in approximately a century… an electric car company.) I’m not going to lie, Mr. B.S. eloquently paints a picture of the conference call that makes it seem like Elon is a clueless hack who lives in some kind of fantasyland. If I were new to the topic, I’d probably think he had several solid points and would be a Tesla/Elon skeptic.

But here are two things: 1) I listened to that whole call twice and have a very different perception of the whole thing, 2) Mr. B.S. has been writing negative pieces about Tesla for years. I’ve never seen a positive one from him. If he had been so prescient in his insight, Tesla would have crashed and burned several times. He has been convinced (or at least acted like it) that Tesla demand couldn’t get anywhere close to where it is today, that Tesla could never produce the cars it has now produced, that Tesla was lying about its autonomous driving capabilities (this is the case where he pledged to eat a hat if Tesla achieved what it said it was going to do, but then decided not to eat the hat when he was wrong), that Tesla was actually lying about its sales and Elon Musk committed a huge white-collar crime, and much more.

I honestly don’t think Mr. B.S. was secretly assigned the task of bashing Tesla for a living. I think he has long been skeptical, and as he has been wrong time and time again, he has found other things to be skeptical about (sound familiar?). I don’t know what his underlying problem is with Tesla. Deep and long ties to the conventional auto industry? A bias against electric cars? Maybe it is that his “expert” sources from the auto industry keep telling him things are impossible. And rather than believe Elon and Tesla, he believes his sources, who have pretty continuously underestimated the rocket man.

Again, in this latest rant, Mr. B.S. acts as if Elon doesn’t have a good grasp on auto manufacturing because, for example, he keeps emphasizing on these calls that you can’t build a car with thousands of parts if 3 of those parts are missing (i.e., if a few suppliers aren’t ramping up quickly enough). Right, Mr. B.S., Elon is just too simple minded…. Anyone who has listened to Elon many times (as I’m sure Mr. B.S. has) should well know that he is extremely knowledgeable and smart but tries very hard to explain things in a way that a lay person (or analyst) can understand. He goes out of his way to create analogies and explain things in simple terms. And, at times, I presume he has a little trouble knowing if others “get” something that is simple/obvious to him. Taking that as “Elon is a simple-minded and naïve teenager” is obviously missing the forest for the trees.

I don’t typically take on mass-media nonsense these days, because it’s not my favorite thing to do, but given that this guy has a regular role on Forbes as a lead Tesla writer and gets the story wrong practically every time, as if he is living in an alternate universe, I felt compelled to rant a little bit as well.

Yep, I’m long TSLA, but that’s not at all what compelled me to write this. I, like many, get quite upset when I see falsehoods pushed repeatedly, habitually, and seemingly without any reflection on the faults in reasoning the person has made so many times before. It irritates me if it’s about Elon Musk, global warming, or nuclear power prices.

I honestly don’t have much hope for Mr. B.S. coming around. He has been at this for years. He obviously has a goal and/or bias that dramatically warps his perception (or public words on) Tesla and Elon Musk. When a self-driving Tesla Model 3 is in production, he’ll have something new to say that will make it seem like Tesla is on the brink of collapse. But seriously, Forbes, you’re losing a lot of credibility with this guy on your crew.

Photo by Scott Cooney | CleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 4.0), via

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • ROBwithaB

    Luckily for me, Forbes won’t let me read any of their articles unless I turn off adblock.
    Which I’m not going to do.
    So win-win for me. I don’t get the malicious, time-wasting adverts. Nor the malicious and time-wasting articles.

  • Marhls

    Herr Schmitt has his own blog at which is very interesting to read but perversely anti-Tesla. Schmitt apparently had a career in marketing for German and Japanese car firms and now appears to be retired. The blog is shared with another dude. There are no adverts on the site, but there is plenty of content with news updated almost daily. I would love to know whether the site has a source of external funding? What better way to sow discord about a young firm like Tesla than through the blog of a sour veteran who is still in bed with traditional auto?

    The more BS the better, it will enable the TSLA share price to bounce alternatively high and low and enable people to buy low, sell high, and buy low again… That situation is likely to remain the case for the next couple of years until Model 3 starts to sell in high volumes.

    • Yes, I’ve been subscribed to it for a long time. I figure if genuine negative news about Tesla comes out, it will be published there asap. Unfortunately, so far, I’ve read a ton of b.s. articles that just mislead people.

  • I can’t help thinking Elon Musk is ‘Willy Wonka’ who hired B.S. a.k.a. ‘Arthur Slugworth’ to send in spies to steal the secret -recipes- plans to Elon’s -treats- future productions.

  • Disqusor

    BS, the answer is simple for all reasons, he knows he´s wrong.

  • Coley

    The author ( really apt initials-:) ) make some very valid points but then totally undermines his article with an extraordinary level of sneering venom.
    Some very insecure and frightened people out there in banksterland.

  • newnodm

    I think many of the biggest critics of Tesla are feeling the relatively high level of sociopathy in Musk. What they probably don’t realize is that people like Musk, when aligned with the social good, make some of the biggest positive changes in society.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I suspect a bad word choice there…

      sociopathy – a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial,often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

      • newnodm

        No, my word choice is accurate. The Slate writer is describing the classic high functioning sociopathic personality:

        It’s not an either/or condition. It’s a continuum.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Neither “sociopathic personality” or “sociopath” occurs in the article you linked. The author describes Musk as something of an adrenaline junkie…

          “Musk is the kind of person who runs on adrenaline”

          Let’s take a look at what sorts of people earn the label of sociopath….

          “Sociopaths are usually defined as people who display antisocial behavior which is mainly characterized by lack of empathy towards others, coupled with displays of abnormal moral conduct and an inability to conform with the norms of society. People who experience antisocial personality disorder are often times referred to as, ‘sociopaths.’ Some of the other characteristics that sociopaths might display are lying, lack of remorse for others and towards living beings, stealing, impulsive behavior, irresponsible behavior, drug or alcohol abuse, issues with the law, violating the rights of others, aggressive behaviors and more.

          Sociopaths are often unable to control their own behaviors and their expressions of irritability, annoyance and threats when faced with situations that do not appeal to them and they often tend to resort to aggression, threats and verbal abuse.

          The warning signs of a sociopath can include the following:

          Cruelty to animals

          Manipulating others without remorse

          Disregard for the safety of others of self

          Inconsistencies between what they say and do

          Excuses or subject changing when caught in a lie

          Perceiving any social situation as a test or contest

          Feeling no shame when caught in an embarrassing situation

          Repeatedly performing acts that can serve as grounds for arrest

          Irritability and aggression, indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults

          Going around a question, answering it in a way that does not really answer it

          Ability to sense vulnerabilities and motivated in using them for personal pleasure or gain”

  • eveee

    I knew someone that worked for Bosch and VW a few years ago. We got into an argument over VWs EV aspirations. My reading of VW was EVs were dismissed in favor of diesel. We know how that came out and recent events proved me right. Now VW is singing a different tune.
    All car companies are having an internal debate now, with many skeptical of EVs, and some embracing them within their staff. That happened at VW. Now they have to change.
    its revealing that both VW and Bosch got caught up in dieselgate. This ex VW employee? might be one of those disgruntled anti EV types.
    Its not wrong to have questions, doubts, or cynicism. But it must be balanced.

  • eveee

    A car is built with multiple suppliers for a reason. Then if one fails to deliver, another can fill in. Telsas disadvantage was initially low volume and being a start up with higher risk. And newer parts that often did not exist previously. That made multiple sources harder to come by. If they had to source internally, that could become a roadblock also, although easier to control.

    While superficially, its correct that a single part can stop production, a more nuanced discussion is necessary to see the bigger picture. For how long? How much volume. In what way. Can there be substitutions. Thats a more reasonable discussion than the outlandish chicken little stories trolls offer.

    Elon erred in his over ambitiousness on the Model X and admitted it. That doesnt sound like an exec unable to admit mistakes and improve. We will have to see how he does on the 3, where he has pledged higher volumes and stated much easier construction.

  • NRG4All

    IMHO there are some people that can earn a living by being contrarians. Then when one in many predictions comes true they are viewed as prescient and it adds credence to their “superior” intelligence.

  • Pat Campbell

    You might consider reporting him to the Securities Exchange Commission as it is possible he is using his claims to cause the stock to move and uses those moves to buy and sell in a way that is profitable to himself and quite possibly others. Instead of pumping and dumping he may be using the mirror opposite tactic which can work even better as negativism often has more power. Could be he is using his profits to save up for a T3.

    • I don’t think that’s what’s going on here, just from my judgement from reading his articles for a fairly long time.

  • PG

    Whether or not Elon understands lean manufacturing is irrelevant because he certainly doesn’t understand the battery supply chain. I can tell you that Panasonic will not be able to procure enough battery-grade Lithium Hydroxide to build 500,000 EV packs in 2018 because it there will insufficient supply. You won’t find an independent source of Lithium/Battery information anywhere who will say otherwise.

    BTW I was long Tesla and I know EVs will disrupt the automotive incumbents in a decade but Elon is taking a desperate gambit to secure one more round of funding to produce the Model 3 because the chances of getting significant cash flows from the Model X are poor. Having rode Sun Edison from the world’s biggest renewable energy company to bankruptcy in a year I know that it doesn’t matter how great your product is if you take on too much debt to grow too quickly.

    Elon’s aim of rolling out mass electrification of the automotive industry will succeed but Telsa itself may not survive to see it.

    • I don’t think Elon would have trouble securing cash with >400,000 Model 3 reservations. I think he’s clearly trying to come up with the best solution to far more demand than anticipated.

      And I assume he has thought about the battery supply and has information neither of us have.

    • onesecond

      To my knowledge, the Gigafactory already has local supply contracts for Lithium for the coming years. Not sure where your concern comes from.

    • jeffhre

      Wow. Amazing knowledge base. You know Tesla’s resources and supply chain better than they do. All the way out to 2018. They should hire you, right now!

    • dogphlap dogphlap

      Lithium is very common. The supply is set by demand. If Tesla wants more of that element supply will increase to meet that demand. At the moment half of the lithium sold goes into glass and lubricant manufacture. A large increase in demand from an automotive manufacturer may affect the price a little but this stuff is not gold, there is no shortage and never will be on this planet.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Quite likely as demand increases the price will drop. Mining and refining will become more efficient.

    • nakedChimp

      I also can’t find university professors or government economists that will be able to tell me the implications of negative interest rates for central bank loans in Sweden, Japan or Switzerland and what the remainder of the world has to expect in the future – so what?

  • Ash45

    So many naysayers want Elon Musk to fail so badly that I think I’m going to support him, just to spite those people and make them gnash their teeth some more.

  • John Moore

    I’m not so sure that B.S. is not on somebody’s payroll. There are so many employer candidates.

  • Carl Raymond S

    Bertel Schmitt’s retelling of the question about whether Musk learned from the “Hoerbiger experience” was a particularly cheap shot.
    Had the question been submitted in writing, I have no doubt Musk would have understood the question and been happy to answer it, but over a phone line, and without correct pronunciation or an ear for German, I think most people would have failed to interpret the question.
    I mean, WTF is a “Hoerbiger experience”? Is Hoerbiger a ski resort in Switzerland? A new item on the menu at Maccas? Somebody you had to fire recently? A massage technique? The questioner gave zero context.
    For the record, it’s the company originally contracted to supply the Model X door mechanism.

  • J.H.

    Kick some ass. In the end, he may be out of a job.

  • Jim Seko

    There is no doubt that people like the Koch brothers are paying anonymous trolls to manufacture doubt about clean energy and to say positive things about hydrogen fuel cells

  • Brunel

    What about this guy:

    Very ignorant of the power prices in Hawaii and power cuts in South Africa.

    • No familiar with him, but we have a very in-depth piece coming on the tech.

  • Jens Stubbe

    His BS criticism may be unfounded but it is important for everyone to be criticized and to think about the critique. If you only ever source opinions from admirers you almost certainly will fall victim to tunnel vision.

    From that perspective I find the article a bit over the top defiant.

    When I went to university we were routinely forced to assume and defend views just to be able to argue and analyze. In my professional career I always have found it useful to keep an open mind.

    So I hope Elon at least looks into the points that BS tries to argue – can’t harm him or Tesla to be sure that they are on the right track.

    • Right. That’s why I’ve long subscribed to his articles. But the problem is that they are based to a tremendous degree on falsehoods and claims of certainty that end up being very wrong. And also include claims of criminal behavior that is non-existent and slanderous. This article just finally pushed me enough to write something about him.

    • No Longer Here

      The quality of a contrary opinion is every bit as important as your primary thesis. Sloppy or disingenuous contrary thinking is not helpful.

  • john

    Unfortunately some just can not handle change in their world view and when that vision is myopic, the result is to try and destroy the annoyance by any means possible and if one has access to decision makers all the better to achieve this aim.
    As a learned gentleman said to me recently “Ignore them they do not amount to anything of substance and are trivial in the context of life”

    • “Unfortunately some just can not handle change in their world view and when that vision is myopic, the result is to try and destroy the annoyance by any means possible and if one has access to decision makers all the better to achieve this aim.”
      –That has been my assumption about this guy, but you wrote it much more eloquently than I thought or wrote it.

      • john

        Zac your too kind my failures are many.
        There is immense goodwill within society to ensure there is a bright future for all.
        I have seen a change in thinking, because of the evidence that is ever more apparent every year.
        As the FF industry is tainted with the fruits of their doing, they are becoming ever more desperate to encourage falsehood in every avenue they work in.
        I frankly feel they should be thought of as “Naughty old boys who should be given a warm milk drink and patted on the head”.
        One just has to smile and let them toddle off to bed.

        • It’s a very kind, understanding, and patient perspective.

          • john

            Thanks all good frankly i just have a grin and try to be positive most of the time.

          • Same here 😀

          • john

            I commented on your blog a minute ago may be an exercise for you to collate the figures more accurately and publish here.

  • Marcel

    Don’t pay attention to losers like them… They like to make themselves sound interesting and relevant but Tesla’s success is a slap in their face just like opec saying 94% of cars will use fossil fuels in 20 years is dead wrong and only lying to themselves… They’ll all fail miserably.

    • I should really take his site out of my feed reader, but I always figure that if something serious does come up, he’ll be one of the first to call it. But the false screams of “fire! fire!” really get old.

  • Phil Short

    When Mr B.S. lands a rocket ship on a boat after sending it into space I’ll take his word over Elon Musk’s. For now if Elon says it’s possible I’m behind him all the way.

    • AaronD12

      *lands a rocket ship on a boat TWICE…

  • lad76

    Forbes is part of the Wall Street propaganda crowd who work with the wall street banks to drive the market and particular stocks up and down. You do not trust any of these insiders to publish the truth. Their real job is to churn the market so the banksters can bet on stocks moving on spun news. They been doing this for years.

  • Necro Nomaken

    Some very smart people like to use their intellect to explain why things are impossible rather than figuring out how to make them possible. I call them anti-engineers.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think of them as ‘half a brain’ people.

      They have the half that alerts to the danger of a hungry tiger lurking nearby. But not the half that tells them to get the hell out of there.

    • Ha, great term. 😀

    • Shiggity

      There is something worse than an anti-engineer.

      A nuclear proponent sometimes can be one. For example, they’ll be anti-engineers for ALL other sources of energy BESIDES nukes, then when we talk about nukes, every experimental technology is magically viable.

      EV’s are impossible! But ICE cars will last for another 100 years with no further proof!

      If you base ANYTHING on past performance in the 21st century, you’re going to be wrong. Unfortunately this is the only way old people know how to trend anything.

      Exponential trends simply scare the masses. But guess what, pretty much every trend going forward will display an exponential curve. People better start getting used to it.

    • Shiggity

      There is something worse than an anti-engineer.

      A nuclear proponent sometimes can be one. For example, they’ll be anti-engineers for ALL other sources of energy BESIDES nukes, then when we talk about nukes, every experimental technology is magically viable.

      EV’s are impossible! But ICE cars will last for another 100 years with no further proof!

      If you base ANYTHING on past performance in the 21st century, you’re going to be wrong. Unfortunately this is the only way old people know how to trend anything.

      Exponential trends simply scare the masses. But guess what, pretty much every trend going forward will display an exponential curve. People better start getting used to it.

      • John_ONeill

        Every exponential trend will drop, sooner or later, because we live in a finite universe. Mostly, sooner. Every embryo grows exponentially after conception, but more of them turn into mice than whales.

        • nakedChimp

          how about thechnology, knowledge? When does that one drop?
          I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the ‘scraping-the-bottom’ part there yet..

          • John_ONeill

            Richard Feynmann, nobel laureate in physics, wrote a famous essay called ‘ There’s plenty of room at the bottom ‘, in which he predicted the whole semiconductor revolution and Moore’s law. I’m not sure if that works for people though, they’re harder to miniaturise than circuits, so you have some irreducible demands for space, food , energy. But as you say, there’s always room for surprises.

  • harisA

    If the condescending and indignant tone of the article is ignored, the author does raise some valid points. However, Tesla and Elon Musk have done things before that were that were either unexpected like >400,000 Model 3 reservations with people putting $1000 for each, or extremely challenging as todays successful landing of SpaceX rocket first stage after a pretty difficult trajectory.

    There is also a great deal of goodwill that Tesla has that will give it a lot of leeway, both with customers and investors, if the expectation are not met initially. The author completely ignores that.

    I hope for Mr. Schmitt benefit that the hats are made of chocolate, other wise he will get a mighty case of indigestion:-)

    • Just for clarification (and fine either way), is this referring to my article or his: “If the condescending and indignant tone of the article is ignored, the author does raise some valid points.”

      • harisA

        Come on! you are too nice to use an indignant tone. Condescending? hmm, just kidding 🙂

  • DP

    I already don’t take Forbes seriously since many years. Its ties with big interest groups has been consistently obvious all along.

    • It’s one of the MSM sites that I find sometimes has good stuff and sometimes have crap. Doesn’t seem as consistently warped on cleantech as WSJ, Reuters, and some others. But the approach of publishing controversial people just because they are controversial and catchy (but spread unwarranted FUD) is not a good decision in my eyes.

      Taking a tip from my unofficial blogging mentor, Joe Romm, I think it’s important to call the MSM out on things like this. Am sure I could have done a better job digging up specific comments this guys has made over the years, and how ridiculously wrong they were, but I don’t have the desire to dig through the garbage again. Hope this suffices.

  • AaronD12

    Forbes. The site that refuses entry if you run an ad blocker, but serves up malware-tainted ads when you disable it. (I can’t link to the source article, but it’s easy to find with a simple search.)

    • Wow….

      • CB

        Forbes also regularly allows fossil-funded misinformation to appear in its pages in the guise of “opinion”… so… It’s more a propaganda outlet than a source of news at this point.

        “James Taylor. I write about energy and environment issues.”

        “James Taylor is a Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute”

        • Oh, I forgot that guy writes there. Horrible stuff.

          Like Bob said, they run some good things too. I think they just run anything they think will get traffic and come across as intelligent to certain people.

    • Termin8r
      • AaronD12

        I appreciate it. I do know how to get around their anti-ad blocker code and I don’t use a Windows PC so I’m not (as) affected by the malware (I don’t run Flash or Java either!)… but it just goes to show you the quality of people running the site and writing its content.

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