Can you trust the word of a billionaire?
The Danish electric vehicle designer and CEO Henrik Fisker's Twitter account disappeared after the social media juggernaut declared its acceptance of Elon Musk's offer to purchase it for $44 million, according to an initial report from Bloomberg.
Musk, who is CEO of the EV giant Tesla Inc., is Fisker's rival. So this could raise the question of how entrepreneurial hopefuls in the EV industry — or other industries under Musk's thumb, like space launch services — will fare under what some extremely online Twitter users have called — granted, perhaps ironically — "Musk's Twitter regime".
But before Fisker logged all the way off of Twitter, he tweeted: "Please follow me on IG (Instagram) from now on if you want any updates. Thanks."
And, beyond industry rivals — this could foreshadow something dubious for people assembling on Twitter: what happens when their activities or activism gets in the way of Musk's revenue?
An EV rival of Musk's leaves Twitter behind
It turns out, Musk and Fisker had a less than warm relationship, and it went back years. When Fisker initially launched Fisker Karma — a plug-in type of an EV that costs $103,000, he was still under contract for the design of Tesla's Model S. "We were paying someone to do styling for his own car," said Musk of the apparent conflict of interest, in an Automobile Magazine report.
Fisker worked for Aston Martin in the early 2000s, before he threw in with Musk as an early design consultant for the latter's budding Tesla. Later, in 2007, the former founded Fisker Automotive, which became one of the first plug-in cars on Earth: Fisker Karma. Tesla took Fisker the man to court for developing Karma while under contract on the Model S, but it was ultimately unsuccessful.
"The fundamental problem with Henrik Fisker — he is a designer or stylist...he thinks the reason we don't have electric cars is for lack of styling," said Musk in Automobile. "This is not the reason. It's fundamentally a technological problem. At the same time, you need to make it look good and feel good, because otherwise you're going to have an impaired product."
"But just making something look like an electric car down not make it an electric car," added Musk. "It's a mediocre product at a high price. The car looks very big, and yet it has no trunk space and is very cramped inside, particularly in the rear seats."
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We don't know how Musk's Twitter will moderate assemblies that threaten his revenue
Karma's plug-in hybrid powertrain was still fairly competent technology, for a hybrid. Developed by Quantum Technologies, it uses a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder for gasoline (from General Motors). Valmet builds the car in Finland, where Tesla produces its Roadster, according to a Motortrend report.
In a follow-up to Musk's big Twitter buyout, Fisker made an Instagram post, explaining why he left Twitter. "I believe 100% in free speech. But I do not want my free speech to be actively managed or controlled by a competitor. And I do not want a competitor to determine how my followers experience Fisker as we grow our company."
If Twitter is a kind of "de facto town square," as Musk has said, then we live in a world where billionaires heading leading industries expected to dominate our future — like Tesla in electric vehicles and SpaceX for public-private space ventures — control the basis of that free speech. Would a billionaire space baron be okay with a grass-roots movement getting in the way of his ever-flowing profits? When he can ban ordinary citizens as easily as he could a rival like Fisker? It's hard to say, since Fisker appears to have left voluntarily. Assuming Musk would never control how followers of his rivals may assemble, why would Fisker leave? Time will tell whether Fisker's departure for business reasons foreshadows something more dubious on the horizon for Twitter dot com.