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Stephen Mihm

Elon Musk Is Acting Like Henry Ford. Uh-Oh.

Both auto magnates built dominant companies. Both became global celebrities. Both dove headlong into other pursuits. One lost his edge. So far.

Where it all started.

Where it all started.

Source: Hulton Archive via Getty Images

As Elon Musk tries to add the social media giant Twitter to his expanding empire, he’s seeming a bit busy. When he’s not starting and buying complex companies, he’s sounding off about free speech, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence and, well, just about everything.

The electric-car magnate is developing an eerie resemblance to another automotive visionary: Henry Ford. That’s not meant as a compliment. If Musk keeps courting celebrity and pursuing side ventures, the risk is that Tesla, the company that made him a household name, will fall from its premier position just as Ford Motor Company did in the 1920s.