Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley-based premium, electric car manufacturer, announced this week that it had posted a $15 million profit for the first quarter of this year – its first profit following 10 years in business. Factoring in the release of its much publicised Model S car this should come as no surprise, launching in California where there is pressure to be seen as green, and a desperate need for a cool and classy alternative to the snub-nosed Prius. However, I took a look at the collaboration behind this success and what was more interesting was that Tesla demonstrates how important it is not to do it all yourself.
Some of the world’s biggest automotive players – such as Toyota, Daimler and Lotus – played important roles in Tesla’s evolution. For example Panasonic, in the same league as Japanese electronics giants like Sony and Toshiba, has been helping develop the Model S’s critical lithium-ion battery technology for Tesla over the last 3 years. In fact, in spite of the widely discussed criticism that the BBC’s Top Gear gave Tesla in 2008, such levels of engineering and backing meant the Tesla was probably always going to have a success story on its hands – and good luck to them.
Being realistic, I’m an old petrolhead but even I will probably never drive an electric car every day. In spite of the industry’s huge advances, the cost of desirable, high-performance, all-electric vehicles looks set to keep them in the pockets of the elite of the developed world – like The Valley – for the remainder of my lifetime. However, the specification of Tesla’s Model S – which looks every bit like a current Jaguar or Lexus – is spectacular, and a great reminder that automotive technology certainly isn’t standing still.
Hopefully in 5 years Tesla’s success will be used to demonstrate where borrowing the best developments from others, rather than developing everything from scratch, changed an industry.