On Dec. 9, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made an appearance on the CBS news program “60 Minutes.” On the show, Musk discussed Tesla’s recent struggles, his antipathy toward the Securities Exchange Commission and his feelings about new Tesla Chairperson Robyn Denholm. He also made a rather provocative statement about his car company’s future.
In response to a question posed by Lesley Stahl about potential competition in the electric car market by General Motors, Musk got a little philosophical. “If somebody comes and makes a better electric car than Tesla, and it’s so much better than ours that we can’t sell our cars and we go bankrupt, I still think that’s a good thing for the world,” said the billionaire industrialist.
Environmentalism or Arrogance?
Although ambivalence is an odd thing for a chief executive to express about his company’s future, it does track with Musk’s environmentalist convictions. In addition to regularly advocating for action on climate change, Musk has also donated $6 million to the Sierra Club. However, Musk’s comments may also reflect his belief that GM and other legacy car makers are not an existential threat to Tesla.
Although the prevailing narrative about the leading EV manufacturer has largely been negative throughout 2018, Tesla’s situation has greatly improved recently. In July, the company was finally able to resolve its production issues and hit its goal of making 5,000 Model 3s a week.
Consequently, the company was able to defy market expectations and actually outsell Mercedes-Benz in the third-quarter of this year. Moreover, earlier this year, Musk was able to ink a deal with the Chinese government to build a Tesla plant in Shanghai that will allow the company to double its global production capacity.
Conversely, GM recently announced plans to cease production of its highly touted, poorly selling Chevrolet Volt hybrid. The carmaker will soon be shuttering 5 North American assembly plants, including the one responsible for producing the Volt.
GM’s and Ford’s Future: A Pivot to E-Bikes?
With its recent resurgence and unique ability to make EVs that people actually want to buy, it’s actually possible that Tesla will eventually supplant companies like GM and Ford. After all, Musk led companies to have a reputation for massive disruption; his online money transfer firm PayPal revolutionized the banking industry.
However, legacy corporations like GM and Ford may be able to thrive in the future by updating their business models. Specifically, by gaining a foothold in the nascent e-scooter and e-bicycle trend that’s sweeping the major cities.
While such a pivot may sound absurd, it’s worth noting that micro-mobility rental companies like Lime and Bird have found major success in providing urbanites with a low-cost, zero emission and agile form of transportation. And as a result, both Ford and GM have earmarked millions of dollars to develop new micro-mobility solutions.
With their high level of consumer awareness and sizable resources, it’s very possible for the nation’s legacy automakers to mainstream and dominate the electric micro-mobility field. Then again, Elon Musk recently mentioned that he’d be interested in releasing a Tesla E-bike.