Business

Elon Musk’s secret for looking smart during meetings: Ex-colleague spills

It’s obvious why Lotus hired Matt Windle to spear its electric car push.

The Englishman worked for Tesla for seven years from 2005 – or just a year after Elon Musk bought the early-stage electric vehicle maker.

He worked on Tesla’s first car, the Roadster (the model that Musk would later launch toward the sun on a SpaceX rocket).

So what was it like working for the maverick, the Herald asked the Lotus managing director during his visit to Auckland earlier this week.

“It was a very small business then. I think we knew everybody by first name. So I did get to work with Elon a lot,” he replied.

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“I found him incredible, to be honest. His speed of thought and capacity for taking in information was amazing – really amazing.

“I did find out his secret, though, because there was one day we went to see a supplier and we had been in meetings all day and he hadn’t taken a single note.

“And I thought, ‘How the hell does he remember all this.

“Then as soon as we got in the car, I went to start chatting and he said, ‘Hold on a minute’ and he got on his PDA and just downloaded everything that everybody had told him.

“He didn’t want to do that in front of them. So think that was a ploy so everybody just thought he remembered everything he was told.”

More broadly, the Lotus managing director says, “Elon had a real impact on how to manage the business now with not getting bogged down in meetings and a mentality of quick decision making and trust in execs to make the right decisions.”

That’s the modus operandi Lotus needs as it shoots to transform from a maker of 1500 sports cars a year to 100,000 vehicles annually by 2028, with most of them lifestyle EVs.

The transition is being bankrolled by China’s Geeling, which recapitalised the British car maker to the tune of $2.8 billion.

“When Geeling came in, we called Lotus a 70-year-old startup,” Windle said.

“It’s important that we move at pace.”

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