Conversations With An Auto Exec

This is part of our “Morning Monkey Business” series.

I recently interviewed a major auto executive. Below is an edited transcript of our interview.

Ford mystery car NAIAS

CleanTechnica (CT): Hello, congratulations on the exciting reveal of your new electric models.

Super Important Auto Exec (A): Thank you. We look forward to producing 100–1,000 per month in 2021.

CT: Are you concerned at all that many consumers consider the cars to be “vaporware,” as the kids these days call things?

A: No, they are vaporware. I mean, they’re very real — real real. Exciting too. But you heard me a moment ago, right? 100–1,000 per month in 2021.

CT: OK, yes, so I guess it’s good everyone’s on the same page. Can you explain why only 100–1,000 per month? Is it lack of demand? Lack of battery supply?

A: Well, we just don’t want to sell electric cars. So, we haven’t secured much battery supply and we don’t anticipate that we’ll inspire many people to buy the cars. We will hardly advertise the cars, since that’s just throwing money down the drain.

CT: If you don’t really want to sell the cars, why are you developing them?

A: Oh, you know — regulations, positive PR, and Tesla is starting to eat our lunch, so we’re trying to distract people with some shiny objects while we lure them onto our dealers’ lots to buy a normal car.

CT: I see. So you’re very cynical?

A: Not cynical. Just lacking in deep morals or bravery, and perhaps a tad greedy.

CT: Well, let’s get back to the products. What type of batteries do you anticipate using?

A: Oh, who knows? We’ll just buy whatever the Big Mac of the Day is from one of those Asian companies that make all the batteries.

CT: I see. So you don’t see a value in becoming a genuine battery expert?

A: No. We just slap pieces together. We don’t actually make things — unless you’re talking engines, which we’ll make forever.

CT: Are you concerned at all about Tesla, other EV startups, or Chinese companies coming in and eating up your market share with more competitive electric vehicles?

A: Well, that’s why we unveiled this vaporware — to convince consumers we’ll create the best electric cars around, but it’s just not time to go electric yet.

CT: You did see that Tesla is outselling you in the United States now, right?

A: Meh, Tesla’s just a dream — a bad dream, but one that will be over soon. Remember, Tesla takes frunk-loads of $100 bills and just burns them in SpaceX rocket thrusters — or something like that. It’s totally unsustainable. And many of Tesla’s executives are now abandoning ship and going to work at Nokia, Kodak, and even Blockbuster. Word on The Street is that Tesla will fold in the next quarter or two. Even if it survives, it can’t really produce cars.

CT: But as I said, it is outselling you in the United States now.

A: Meh, whatever. If things get bad here, I’ll just jump ship and get a CEO position at another struggling automaker.

CT: Are you not at all concerned about climate change?

A: Well, it’s not my responsibility. We have to sell cars, forever. We need at least 30 years to transition from gasoline cars to electric cars. The Earth will find a way to survive. We’re not so adaptable.

CT: This has been an interesting discussion. I’m surprised you’ve been so frank in your answers. Our readers will enjoy the fresh and candid perspective.

A: Oh, I thought this was all completely off the record. You can’t publish any of that in my name. Can you attribute it to John Barron? Or David Dennison?

No? Okay, so please just refer to me as an “auto executive.”

CT: Oh, also, I forgot to ask about autonomous cars. Can you say anything about your company’s plans for self-driving cars, the steps you will take along the way to full autonomy, and what kind of hardware and software development your team is doing to compete with Tesla, Waymo, and potentially Apple?

A: Oh, come on, I have no clue about this stuff. I have a sales background, and know a bit about engines, but I couldn’t have a sensible discussion with an autonomous-driving tech intern if you paid me a million bucks and gave me a week to prep.

I’m not that far off from retirement age. I expect to just hit cruise control and sit this one out. Well, that ironic, eh? Haha.

In all seriousness, none of my colleagues in CEO roles at other automakers know any more about this stuff. We make forecast after forecast just based on what we’re told consumers expect to hear and by reverse engineering the questions we receive from large shareholders. We’re pretty good at pretending we know what we’re doing. We’ve also acquired some California and Dutch startups recently, which some tech nerd on our team supposedly vetted for foolproof vaporware and PR benefit without risk of shareholder concern. They may actually end up achieving something, too

The thing is, no one thinks we’ll have fully autonomy until 2025 or even 2030. Maybe we never will. But to try to make it happen, we’ve got 5 guys working in a secluded box in a portion of one of our factories — and we’ve got a whole lot of beanbag chairs and Amy’s frozen foods for them to enjoy while engaging in their innovative work.

CT: Well, thank you for your time, and thanks again for answering these questions so openly. It’s almost like you and other automakers are working off of template press release and talking points sheet about these topics.

A: Actually, we are. Have a look:

I have to give Ford some props. “Ford Lighting” was a great name.

Our next vaporware EV line doesn’t have a compelling name at all. It’s just a variety of numbers and letters tossed around haphazardly. Ford has always been good at naming and marketing its vehicles, even when the products themselves have been disgraceful.

Images via Tina Casey and Ed, respectively

Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

Zachary Shahan has 7125 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan