A few weeks ago, a Rich Stefani tweeted something to Elon Musk. Highlighting just how abnormal Elon Musk’s Twitter habits are — and just how atypical Elon is — he responded to this gentleman. I use the words “abnormal” and “atypical” because Rich has just 23 followers (and has only tweeted 29 times). It’s not normal for a billionaire CEO with 25.6 million followers to care much about what people tweet his way, let alone respond to them. It’s not typical for a billionaire CEO to spend a lot of time conversing with the unwashed masses (no offense, Rich). Though, it is typical for Elon.
Anyway, this article is not about Elon’s rather special Twitter habits. There’s a great WSJ report on that. But I thought these meta matters were worth noting.
This article is, more so, about two Tesla product improvements and why they’re representative of a Tesla advantage that’s a pretty big deal. Also, I love the product improvements.
Rich’s tweet was a simple but excellent idea: make a Tesla vehicle with bioweapon defense mode remember where bioweapon defense mode was turned on — and turn it on there automatically going forward. Elon’s simple but clearly powerful response: “Will do.”
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2019
More recently, a Carlo Costanzo tweeted a request to have more control over the Tesla Powerwall’s Storm Watch feature. Two days later, voila!
Holy Crap! I just posted this 2 days ago and today my #Powerwall has started entering into Storm Watch when a Thunderstorm approaches.. Absolutely AMAZING! Coincidence? maybe.. Amazing Tech? Most Definitely!
— Carlo Costanzo (@ccostan) April 9, 2019
The rapid response to good customer ideas is one thing — it’s one of the reasons some Tesla customers and fans love Tesla, and love Elon. (Note: not all customer requests get dealt with quickly, but that’s another story.)
However, another key highlight here is Tesla’s role as a software company. It can push updates like this regularly and can flexibly respond to customer desires and ideas for improvement because a big part of Tesla is “Tesla Software.” Tesla is known typically as an automaker, or a sustainable energy company, but if you took all the hardware away, Tesla could be a highly valued software company partnering with automakers and energy companies around the world. In fact, who knows, Tesla’s software solutions may end up being Tesla’s most valuable asset. (I’ll talk a bit more about this in an upcoming CleanTech Talk podcast with ARK Invest.)
These kind of “little improvements” may seem small each time there’s an improvement you don’t care much about, but when one of them tickles your fancy, it injects an excitement into your view of Tesla, and it stimulates a customer connection that is particular unique in the auto world and electricity world. Tesla loves to make its customers smile, and you see that both in interactions like the ones in the tweets above and in the kind of software solutions and fun Tesla is continuously working on.
Looking at it purely from a monetary point of view, that engineering flexibility and rapid product improvement via software is setting Tesla apart in some pretty big industries. That might be considered valuable some day.