Published on June 6th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro12
When Will Automakers Take Tesla Seriously?
June 6th, 2014 by Christopher DeMorro
Tesla Motors is the first new, successful American automaker in decades, and not since the Kaiser-Frazer Motor Company has a new car company had such success. But to exceed Kaiser, and take its place among the pantheon of American automakers, Tesla must sell at least 6 million vehicles. That’s a tall order to be sure.
Why 6 million? According to Green Car Reports, that’s equivalent number of cars that Kaiser-Frazer (which later became just Kaiser Motors) sold during its 9-year run in the 1940s and 1950s, when the market for new cars was much smaller than it is today. So can Musk do it, and make history?
We don’t see why not, though the comparison has its faults.
First a quick history lesson. Founded in 1945, just months after the defeat of the Axis powers of World War II, Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph Frazer debuted the first post-war prototypes in 1946, with the Kiaser model being down-market and front-wheel drive, while the Frazer was more luxury-oriented and rear-wheel drive. From 1946 to 1955, Kaiser-Frazer sold approximately 750,000 vehicles, including a number of Jeeps, which Frazer acquired in 1953 as part of the Willys-Overland deal. In 1955, Kaiser abandoned the car market entirely and focused on Jeeps and trucks, forming the Kaiser Jeep Corporation, which carried on until being bought by AMC in 1970.
Back in the 1950s, the market for car sales annually was just 9 to 10 million units a year, compared to over 80 million a year now. So to beat out Kaiser, Musk has to sell approximately 6 million Tesla vehicles. If you want to get technical, he has to do it by 2021, as Kaiser sold three-quarters of a million vehicles in just nine years. So far, Tesla has sold about 25,000 Model S sedans, and only about 2,300 Roadsters. In other words, they’ve got a long way to go to meet this arbitrary milestone.
If you ask us though, Elon Musk makes history once he crosses the one-million car mark. A car company that sells a million pure-electric vehicles, with no gas-powered cars in its lineup at all? It’s amazing Musk and Tesla have made it this far, and the day when the millionth Tesla is built isn’t that far out. But even by Tesla’s own projections, the company will probably have only sold about 300,000 units by the end of Musk’s reign 4 to 5 years from now, way behind Kaiser’s pace of production. We’re on the first steps to the road to one-million Teslas, and we’ll get to six million too…but almost certainly not in the same time it took Kaiser to get to 750,000 units.
It’s not really fair to compare to the two companies though, when you think about it. Despite selling 750,000 units in just 9 years, Kaiser got out of the car business, and their cars weren’t exactly innovative. Kaiser didn’t shove the industry forward or do what other people said couldn’t be done. Some have compared Elon Musk to Preston Tucker, who’s innovative (although not really) Tucker Torpedo is said to have scared the auto industry so much, they actively sabotaged his company before it got rolling. But Tucker wasn’t the businessman Musk is,
No, Elon Musk and Tesla Motors are in a category of their own, and any comparison is ultimately going to fall short. It is one thing to have a great idea with world-changing potential, but it’s another thing entirely to sell the hell out of that technology.
Want to compare Elon Musk to somebody? Compare him to Henry Ford. In my opinion, that’s the last guy to change the world with an automobile, and Musk is the first man in more than a century with a chance to change it again.
Source: Green Car Reports
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