David Vespremi was one of Tesla’s early employees. He served as the company’s Director of Public Relations. Even though he was a highly effective employee for the company, they fired him and slandered his name. He has spent the a last six years of his life in litigation with the company and recently won a lawsuit against Tesla. He published a book “Reboot: The (Previously) Untold Story Of Tesla’s Electric Sports Car” by author David Vespremi. The following describes an encounter between the former CEO of Tesla and Microsoft as written in his book:
I’d just taken over as Tesla’s PR guy and had been contacted by old friends at Microsoft Game Studios about including the Tesla Roadster in Project Gotham Racing 4. Darryl Siry, my boss, took me into Martin Eberhard’s (Tesla’s Co-founder/then CEO) office to broach the topic. That’s when it went very wrong.
“So, Martin, you know David has a background in licensing and product placement.”
“Mmph… that’s right”
“Well, he recently connected with the folks at Microsoft Game Studios about including the Roadster in a game…”
Martin’s face turned ashen as he turned to face me. “Are you crazy!?!” were, I’m fairly certain, the first words out of his mouth.
“I will not have you doing any business with Microsoft! They are evil!”
Here, I threw what must have been a hopeless glance to Darryl, and began to speak…
“I can’t speak for the rest of the company, but I have worked with their game development team before, and they have always been a pleasure to work with. Plus, we would be getting some premium placement in the game for free and, in the past, I have paid many hundreds of thousands of dollars for that kind of placement…”
“Free?! What good is free if I don’t want it?! If someone gave me a case of lipstick for free, would I want it?”
I resisted the urge to smirk at this comment during what was already feeling like a very tense moment that was escalating rapidly out of control. I began to try to diffuse the situation with logic.
“Well, our fans and customers might appreciate the opportunity to race the Roadster against other cars like Ferraris, Porsches, and all that. Not to mention, there will be some great exposure by piggybacking off their media buy. I understand they will be running promotional theatrical trailers in movie theaters followed by network and cable TV with clips from the game. This could be millions of dollars of exposure for Tesla…”
At this point Martin rose from his desk, walked around Darryl and I out of his office into the common area, and began shouting for all the surrounding cubes to hear.
“So you think it’s a good idea to give our IP over to Microsoft?!?”
All of the conversations in the room stopped. All eyes were now on me as Martin paced the room walking past rows and rows of cubicles, shouting and waving his arms dramatically.P
“And what makes you think they aren’t going to turn around and take that IP and leak it just to bury us?!”
A phone was ringing at a desk nearby and no one was picking it up. Martin was clearly just getting started.
“And what control do you think you would have over how the car performed in the game?! What if they made it suck on purpose?! Maybe it will be the slowest car in the game!! Maybe they’ll have Volkswagen Bugs that are faster!”
Martin was a good twenty feet away by now, but his voice continued to boom as he gestured in my direction.
“And that’s if you’re lucky! They may just have it be a car that runs over black people. Now, Mr. PR guy, what are you going to do?!”
“Sure, why not!? Maybe they will turn it into a racist car that runs over black people. And that’s the image you want for this company?!”
I wasn’t sure where to go with this. To be candid, I was already well out of my element back at the VW Bug comment.
Alina Dini, Martin’s assistant at the time, shot me a sympathetic smile and a profound look of pity.
“What if we insisted on contractual provisions to review content? I have used those in the past…”
My voice must have been breaking by now, and this came out more of a plea than anything.
“Sure. Because we would be so well equipped to fight Microsoft in court if they chose to breach that agreement, right?!?”
And with that, Martin continued to walk towards the main workshop.
I was gutted. What made me think this was a good idea? Running over black people? Lipstick? Volkswagens?
I took a long lunch. By myself.
I resolved to apologize to Martin on my return.
When I came back, I found him sitting at his desk with his office door open. He looked up, without saying a word, and motioned me in.
“Martin, I obviously didn’t expect my idea to be so badly received and you’re right, I can’t control all of those variables. I apologize for bringing it up.”
Martin began to smirk a bit and this turned into a kindhearted smile.
“No, its OK. In a past life, I had some deeply unpleasant dealings with Microsoft. So, if I were to entertain this idea, which I’m not sure I should, what would they need from us? Exterior drawings? Photos?”
“A little bit more than that…” I began sheepishly.
After I explained that they wanted technical schematics (Solidworks files) for their renders as well as access to the car itself so that they could mic it for “engine” sounds on a dyno (whatever that meant in this context) a discussion followed where Martin seemed surprisingly open to granting them limited access. He had apparently done a 180 on this. Needless to say, I was floored. Maybe I wasn’t fired after all?
At the close of this, I was given some names of engineering staff to follow up with for files that could be turned over (only after Martin had reviewed them first and had an opportunity to redact sensitive info) together with his proviso that I may, possibly, be given some after hours access to one of the two Validation Prototypes (cars that were used for final fit and finish checks just prior to production) – but that I would need to make it crystal clear that they would have to work on our clock, not theirs, and that when we said “go” they would need to be ready to work fast since there would be no second chances.
In the days that followed, both sides ended up getting everything they needed to move forward and the turbulent seas had apparently calmed, with the one deliverable on our part still outstanding: Providing access to the car for audio recording.
Read the rest of the story at the source…