Tesla has repeatedly staged fake videos making false claims about the capabilities of its products.

Paint it Black – October 2016

Video: “Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Teslas”

In 2016, Musk wrote to Tesla’s Autopilot team telling them: “Just want to be absolutely clear that everyone’s top priority is achieving an amazing Autopilot demo drive. Since this is a demo, it is fine to hardcode some of it, since we will backfill with production code later in an OTA update. I will be telling the world that this is what the car *will* be able to do, not that it can do this upon receipt.”

However, when Musk published the promotional video, titled “Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Teslas”, he lied to the World, stating that “Tesla drives itself (no human input at all) thru urban streets to highway to streets, then finds a parking spot:

In July 2022, testimony from Tesla’s head of Autopilot, Ashok Elluswamy, showed the extent of the discrepancy between Musk’s false claims and FSD’s actual capabilities. Elluswamy admitted under oath that during the filming of the video, the Model X crashed “into a fence inside our parking lot”, proving just how drastically FSD failed.

Elluswamy also stated that the video had been staged, and was not an accurate reflection of Tesla’s self-driving capabilities at the time, despite Musk lying to a global audience that Tesla had solved autonomous driving.

It was also revealed that Musk personally insisted that a front card be added to the video, which reads “The person in the driver’s seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself.” Despite telling the Tesla team that he would “be telling the world that this is what the car *will* be able to do…not that it can do this upon receipt”, Musk deliberately added the front card to deceive consumers into believing that Tesla had a fully autonomous self-driving system, when it didn’t.

As CEO of Tesla, Musk published the video as a definitive statement from the automaker about the capabilities of FSD, which had been announced several years earlier. Despite knowing that FSD could not complete the route and was so defective that it crashed during the filming of the video, Musk chose to lie to Tesla customers and prospective buyers that Tesla had solved autonomous driving.

In September 2023, The Dawn Project tested whether the latest version of FSD available at the time, v11.4.7, would successfully complete the route without human intervention. Despite seven years of development, the safety test driver was forced to disengage when FSD repeatedly attempted to pull out into fast moving traffic and failed to follow a basic navigation route.

When The Dawn Project tested the route, FSD was so bad that it couldn’t even get off the curb.

Video: The Dawn Project’s tests reveal that Tesla Full Self-Driving still fails to complete the “Paint it Black” route, seven years later

The video shows the Tesla exiting a garage, something which FSD fails to do in 2024. In the video, the Model X ostensibly parks autonomously, distinguishing between accessible and regular parking spaces.

A January 2024 video shows that FSD v12 will still park in an accessible spot, despite Musk’s claim that “the car reads the signs to see if it is allowed to park there, which is why it skipped the disabled spot.”

Furthermore, Tesla’s Autopark feature is still defective over seven years later. A March 2024 video shows Autopark colliding with a pillar when backing into a space in a parking garage.

In addition to the video, Musk tweeted about Tesla’s summon function: “When you want your car to return, tap Summon on your phone. It will eventually find you even if you are on the other side of the country.” To this day, Tesla’s Smart Summon is still non-functional.

SolarCity – October 2016

In 2015, solar energy generation systems company SolarCity was considered by many to have a bright future. Founded in 2006 by Musk’s cousins, Peter and Lyndon Rive, Musk himself was SolarCity’s chairman and assisted in setting up the company. As a company promoting the use of clean energy, the decision for Tesla to acquire SolarCity was a “no-brainer” according to Elon when he announced the deal in June 2016. The alignment with Elon’s own “Master Plan” seemed clear and obvious, and would also fit in with Elon’s instincts towards integrating Tesla’s business model.

At the time of Tesla’s acquisition, SolarCity was in severe financial difficulty. The company had struggled to find an effective business model and faced mounting debts, with the share price tumbling from $85 in 2014 to $20 by mid-2016. SolarCity’s auditor concluded in January 2017 that SolarCity was “short of cash by $169M…they are barely at break even”. The company’s debt had “ballooned 13-fold in the past three years” reaching $3.25 billion, with analysts warning that this would be unsustainable. 

Despite this, Musk persuaded the Tesla board to pay $2.6 billion to bring the company into Tesla’s orbit. This was a 25% premium on SolarCity’s ailing stock – of which Musk was the largest shareholder. After Tesla shareholders filed a class action lawsuit over the company’s acquisition of the nearly insolvent Solarcity, Musk needed something to justify his decision. Per his biographer Walter Isaacson, Musk became “obsessed with juicing up the business in order to justify the acquisition in court.” 

In typical fashion, Musk invited the world’s media to attend a demonstration event of SolarCity’s “solar roof” product in October 2016. Describing the “huge market” for a “beautiful” product that lasted “far longer than a normal roof”, Musk made a series of ambitious claims that the product would transform domestic energy generation. “Why would you buy anything else?” Musk asked the audience after claiming that the solar roofs would cost less than normal roof installations, look better, last longer and generate clean energy for households. During the demonstration, he claimed that all of the houses around him had been fitted with the revolutionary solar roof tiles, and he told the audience that solar roofs were to become another element of Tesla’s mission to transition to clean energy.

Video: Tesla Unveils Powerwall 2 & Solar Roof

But Musk once again misled the public at the solar roof launch event. The roofs shown at the event were fake versions of SolarCity’s existing product, hastily assembled after Musk decided that the real roofs that were being installed on customer’s houses were too ugly. 

The fake solar roofs Musk showed to the world never went into production, and the demonstration was a short-term pump designed to justify a bad deal for Tesla. One source explained that “from August to October, it was more about getting the thing to look right, and then from October until now, it’s really about getting the thing to work”. Another noted that there was “a reason that they announced the idea on a fake block in a fake neighborhood with fake houses!”

After a court ruled in Musk’s favor in April 2022 in the lawsuit over Tesla’s purchase of SolarCity, Musk no longer needed to justify the acquisition. Just like Paint it Black, the solar roof demonstration was another example of Musk deceiving the public.

Tesla Semi Unveil – December 2017

In December 2017, Tesla unveiled a new all electric Semi truck, which Musk called “Seriously next level” and said would “blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension”. Tesla announced that the Semi would have 500 miles of range with a 36 ton load.

Tesla published a timelapse video purportedly showing a loaded Semi driving 500 miles on a single charge. However, Tesla did not disclose the payload the truck was carrying, despite payload weight being a vital measurement for the haulage industry. Community estimates put the payload at under 40,000lbs, when the average ICE semi hauls up to 48,000lbs.

Video: Tesla Semi driving 500 miles, fully loaded, on a single charge

The video shows the Tesla Semi was overtaken by hundreds of vehicles, including other ICE semis. For much of the route, the Semi is traveling at under 60mph and does not leave the inside lane of the freeway.

A September 2023 range test of the Tesla Semi conducted by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency showed that the vehicle failed to meet Tesla’s claims of a 500 mile range on a single charge.

PepsiCo remains one of the few companies which operates Tesla semis over a year after the Semi delivery event in December 2022, together with Walmart and DHL. Pepsi’s Vice President Mike O’Connell told CNBC that the corporation’s Semis would haul Frito-Lay chips around 425 miles, but for hauling heavier soda payloads the Semis would cover distances of only 100 miles. Despite ordering 100 Semis in 2017, Tesla only delivered 36 to Pepsi by April 2024.

Optimus – January 2024

In January 2024 Musk tweeted a video of Tesla’s humanoid robot, Optimus, folding a T-shirt. However, it didn’t take viewers long to notice that a hand is seen in the bottom right corner which appears to be controlling Optimus’ movements:

After seeing that people were debunking the video, Musk was forced to issue a clarification where he admitted that “Optimus cannot yet do this autonomously”. Optimus is so woeful that it can’t even fold a shirt without human intervention.

Cybertruck – February 2024

Musk tweeted a video in November 2019 showing a Cybertruck beating a Ford F-150 in a tug of war. However, the video shows that the Cybertruck received a head start, and that the F-150 was rear wheel drive only.

Video: Cybertruck tug of war

In March 2024, a video showed a Chevrolet Silverado easily beating a Cybertruck in a tug of war.

Video: Cybertruck beaten by Chevrolet Silverado in tug of war

During the launch event for the Cybertruck in November 2023, Musk claimed that a Cybertruck could beat a Porsche 911 in a quarter mile drag race, whilst towing a Porsche 911. However, the video demonstration showed by Tesla shows the race only covered 1/8th of a mile.

Video: Cybertruck drag race with Porsche 911

In February 2024, YouTube channel ThrottleHouse recreated the drag race over an accurate quarter mile distance. The Porsche 911 easily beat the Cybertruck. Tesla deliberately cut the distance short while giving the impression of a traditional drag race, in order to mislead prospective customers.

Video: Porsche 911 beats Cybertruck in quarter mile drag race

In May 2024, automotive publication MotorTrend decided to put Tesla’s claims to the test again in a series of quarter mile drag races. On each of the six occasions, the Porsche was comfortably victorious over the Tesla.

“Here’s the truth”, MotorTrend’s report concluded, “A Tesla Cybertruck cannot tow a Porsche 911 Carrera T over a quarter mile quicker than the 911 Carrera T alone can run the race.”

“Add it to the long list of broken Tesla promises”, they continued.

Tesla has a rich history of staging and faking demonstration videos of its products. Its Full Self-Driving software, which Elon admitted is “really the difference between Tesla being worth a lot of money or worth basically zero” and the automaker is now relying on to realize its dreams of autonomy, is built on a lie. Optimus, which Musk claimed would “end poverty”, appeared to rely on remote controlled movements and fails to perform even the most basic autonomous tasks. Elon Musk announced that Tesla would launch a robotaxi on August 8th, before postponing the event to October. How can anybody believe anything that he and Tesla unveil?