Tesla board member says Musk doesn’t mind bankruptcy if a rival builds a better car: ‘That’s his philosophy’

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Elon Musk remarked that he wouldn’t mind Tesla going bankrupt if it means a rival company builds a better car, according to a member of the firm’s board.

“I disagree whenever Elon says I don’t mind Tesla getting into bankruptcy if somebody else comes up with a better car,” Hiromichi Mizuno, former chief investment officer of the Japan Government Pension Investment Fund, told CNBC’s Dan Murphy at the World Government Summit on Tuesday.

“I think that’s his philosophy and Tesla’s philosophy,” said Mizuno, who was chosen to join the company’s board in April 2020.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Musk has previously said the automaker could have gone bankrupt multiple times in its almost 20-year history. In November 2020, Musk said the company was “about a month” away from falling into bankruptcy in the run-up to the production of its Model 3 car, from mid-2017 to mid-2019.

In a separate interview with a Tesla owners club, Musk said keeping the company out of bankruptcy was “overwhelmingly” his concern, as Tesla faced production disruptions because of lockdowns in China. He also remarked that automakers generally “desperately want to go bankrupt.”

Adding to his many other ventures, including space exploration firm SpaceX, Musk last year purchased Twitter and has been pursuing drastic strategic changes — from mass layoffs to an aggressive drive toward profitability. Investors question whether Musk is getting distracted, at a time when Tesla faces increased competition, macroeconomic uncertainty and regulatory scrutiny.

Reflecting on Musk’s mounting workload, Mizuno joked that he was unsure whether the enigmatic billionaire is a “human or alien.”

Nevertheless, Mizuno backed Musk and suggested he admired the tech magnate’s tenacity. “He seems to have incredible bandwidth over his work.”

He’s not the only Tesla backer throwing their weight behind the company’s CEO. Last month, David Wallerstein, chief “eXploration” officer at Tencent, said that he still counts on Tesla “to keep blowing our minds with what they do with technology,” despite Musk’s distractions. The Chinese tech giant has owned a 5% stake in Tesla since 2017.

Although Tesla has made progress in reaching production and sales in the hundreds of thousands — last year, the company delivered 1.31 million vehicles — over 80% of industry sales still come from cars that aren’t fully electric, Mizuno added.

Correction: Hiromichi Mizuno is a former chief investment officer of the Japan Government Pension Investment Fund. An earlier version misstated his status.

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