Yesterday Elon Musk met with embattled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That alone isn’t big news, but no one is better at inciting attention by keeping silent than Elon Musk.
So while no one knows exactly why they met or what they discussed, there are a number of practical explanations. First, an announcement will be made today regarding an Airbus contract with the Turkish government for the deployment of satellites. Musk’s SpaceX is a subcontractor on the deal.
Also, oddly enough, there are a fair number of Tesla owners in Turkey, so urging Musk to build more service and support centers in the country is also a reasonable conclusion.
The President’s spokesperson described the meeting as a discussion on technological investments in the country, including batteries, solar energy and wind power. These are all business focuses of Musk, so listening to a pitch on why his companies should look at establishing partnerships in Turkey also makes sense.
But none of those topics are why Musk made the special trip.
Last week Erdogan announced that five Turkish businesses were launching a joint venture to produce Turkey’s first domestically-produced automobile. This is in a country with a history of state-sponsored electric vehicle projects.
Now, to put it lightly, Erdogan is a heavy-handed leader. And although he has voiced support of the coalition, he’s also made it very clear that he’s hoping they go the route of a hybrid or electric car.
He’s promised state support regardless of the group’s decision, but making in-roads with Musk might offer a not-so-subtle nudge on who the country could throw its support behind if the coalition takes a different route.
And just a heads-up to Musk, Erdogan’s political career is filled with scandal and he was the target of an attempted coup last year that many believe was backed by the U.S. More than 50,000 people were arrested afterwards, including an American pastor.
In other words, “production bottlenecks” might not go over too well.