Today, WIRED held a business conference called Disruptive By Design, which featured a variety of businesspeople and entrepreneurs talking about how to succeed in a rapidly changing business environment. Among their guests were two of the hottest names in the EV space – CEOs Elon Musk of Tesla and Shai Agassi of Better Place.
At one point, Musk humbly volunteered his services to the US auto industry at large. He said he’d like to go up to whoever is “in charge” of Detroit and say “I’d like to run your plants, if you don’t mind.” Though, since the only car company he's every worked with just had a recall of 90% of it's vehicles sold, I'm not sure they'd want him. He also expressed his view that unions, though they do serve a purpose, can be counterproductive when they make workers feel as if they are at odds with the company they work for, rather than on the same side.
So should Detroit take him up on the offer? If so, we can plan on seeing fewer hybrids (which Musk doesn’t like) and more all-electrics. And if the Tesla Roadster is any indication, they will all be extremely expensive… Seriously, though, Elon Musk does have one thing going for him that Detroit desperately needs – he knows how to make his brand desirable and successful, and he knows how to make EVs sexy. Detroit could sure use that.
As for Mr. Agassi, his comments today revolved around China. He talked about how Chinese companies like BYD are getting ready to start making a lot of plug-in electric cars. And in today’s global business climate, all eyes are on China. They set the tone, and if they make electric cars happen, that means very good news for companies like Better Place.
Money quote from Shai – “Our goal is not to build a car company. Our goal is to end oil.” Sounds idealistic, but really he means that his company’s goal is to build the network rather than the vehicles. After all, you can’t raise hundreds of millions of VC dollars just to be idealistic.