Is Tesla the Future of the Auto Industry?

by Fabio Tollon

Tesla Model S

Elon Musk. Either you love him or you love to hate him. He is glorified by some as a demi-god who will lead humanity to the stars (because if it’s one thing we need is more planets to plunder) and vilified by others as a Silicon Valley hack who is as hypocritical as he is wealthy (very). When one is confronted by such contradictory and binary views the natural intuition is to take a step back and assess the available evidence. Usually this leads to a more nuanced understanding of the subject matter, often resulting in a less binary, and somewhat more coherent narrative. Usually.

The idea to write something about Musk was the result of the reality bending adventure that was Edward Niedermeyer’s Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors.

Let us take a look at the basics. Musk is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who made a fortune by helping to found PayPal. Using the capital gained from this venture, he invested $30 million into Tesla Motors, and became chairmen of its board of directors in 2004. He also eventually ousted the founders of the company Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. He is currently CEO of Tesla, Inc. (the name was officially changed from Tesla Motors to Tesla in 2017) and is in regular competition with human rights champion Jeff Bezos for the glamorous title of “world’s most successful hoarder of capital”. I don’t want to spend too much time on the psychology of Elon Musk, as Nathan Robinson has already done a fine job in this regard. Rather, I want to focus on how Tesla is not the market disrupting company many think it is.  Here I will be concerned with the mismatch between Silicon Valley’s software driven innovation versus the kind of innovation that exists in the auto industry. Read more »