Elon Musk didn't want Tesla's Model Y to have a steering wheel so engineers developed the car behind his back, according to a new book

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Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Elon Musk reportedly didn't want a steering wheel in Tesla's Model Y, which was released last year.

  • The CEO said it was because the vehicle would eventually be self-driving.

  • But Tesla engineers went behind his back and developed a steering wheel anyway.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Elon Musk didn't want a steering wheel in his Tesla Model Y. Engineers designed one in any way.

According to The Wall Street Journal reporter Tim Higgins' new book "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century," Musk originally argued that the Model Y, released last year, didn't need a steering wheel since the vehicle was meant to be fully self-driving.

But Tesla engineers, led by then-head of engineering Doug Field, developed the model behind his back. According to Higgins, Field was concerned that Musk interferes with vehicle production and design, right down to the smallest details, and Field wanted to avoid him intervening.

Tesla did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Musk has pushed back against other parts of the book on Twitter.

Field left Tesla in mid-2018 amid reported strife among higher-ups at the company. Musk reportedly wanted more control of the production process of the company's vehicles and pushed Field aside. That turmoil specifically centered around the Model 3, which was released in 2017 and suffered production woes.

Tesla has long endeavored to achieve self-driving capability in its vehicles, touting plans to eventually release a fleet of robotaxis. In 2019, Musk debuted a Tesla without a steering wheel at a so-called Autonomy Day for investors.

"I think there will be a transition period where people are able to take over from the robotaxi but once regulators are comfortable with us not having a steering wheel, we will just delete that," Musk said at the time.

Musk has even said that customers will lose interest in steering wheels.

"The probability of the steering wheel being taken away is 100%," Musk said in 2019. "Consumers will demand it."

Tesla has since made strides in its self-driving software, but it's still run into snags. Musk recently warned Tesla drivers that the system "may do the wrong thing at the worst time" and told them to "please be paranoid."

The company began delivering its Model Y in March 2020 as the pandemic began to rock the world, causing issues at the company's Fremont, California, factories. There is a $60,990 version and a $55,990 version of the Model Y, and the company pulled its more affordable version of the vehicle in February.

Musk said in April that the Model Y will "quite likely" be the world's best-selling car in 2022.

Are you a Tesla employee or customer with a story to share? Contact us at tlevin@insider.com or kcanales@insider.com

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