A former Tesla communications employee narrates the story of Tesla, arguing that Elon Musk's 'insane mode' leadership has been the key to the company's success, heralding the end to the era of gasoline-powered transportation.
McKenzie sometimes veers into Tesla cheerleading by stressing the company’s hits over its misses. But the reader also benefits from his exhaustive research, which delivers a fairly nuanced view of how big automakers are trying to keep up with Tesla’s innovations ... McKenzie writes with breeziness and avoids talking down to readers or loading on too much insider detail. He apparently didn’t interview Musk; the quotes in the book come from company releases, news conferences and media reports. If McKenzie had been able to infuse his tale with original Musk comments, the book would have further stood apart from other works on Tesla’s impact. Still, McKenzie puts us there at a product launch or an interview with a Chinese CEO, even if his metaphors at times come across as head-scratching ... McKenzie has delivered a narrative that both fascinates and frustrates ... Insane Mode will leave you wondering how different our roads would look if we embraced a technology that almost seems inevitable, batteries included.
At its best—when charting this historic pivot by a leading industry—Insane Mode (named after an accelerator button in a Tesla car) is an energetic account of an exciting period of innovation. It is also a good reminder of the power of entrepreneurial drive and markets. However, McKenzie worked for Tesla in public relations, so he writes as a supporter of the vision. McKenzie takes his father for a spin in a Tesla and speaks of his spellbound awe at what is, in the grand scheme of human existence, just a nice car. This is a tech book, so inevitably there are too many descriptions of product launches and PR events at which fans cheer their self-mythologizing heroes. Do we really need to know what color chinos these silly titans are wearing when they unveil a new phone or car? ... There are long detours into China too ... the reader must endure descriptions of companies and Chinese entrepreneurs we have never heard of ... The Chinese section does remind us that, for all the talk of China’s success, insurgent capitalism, as personified in Musk the American immigrant, is rooted in intellectual freedom and the liberty to be noisy, awkward and disruptive.
If you read the Ashlee Vance biography of Musk, or closely follow Musk and Tesla news, the first few chapters of Insane Mode might have you thinking, 'I know this already,' but you should keep going. While McKenzie starts with a crash course in Musk’s and Tesla’s backgrounds, he then dives into the state of the electric car in general, from Henry Ford and Thomas Edison working on one at the turn of the 20th century ... The accounts of all involved are told in a straightforward, conversational tone, but the overall message of the book is clear without being preachy: We need to shift to electric cars and the sooner the better.