Tesla Means Something
Sharp take by Ben Thompson on the new Tesla Model 3 and the parallels of Tesla to Apple:
When it comes to the iPhone I have argued that Apple’s smartphone was, relative to the phones on the market, Obsoletive: the iPhone effectively reduced the phones that came before it to apps on a general purpose computer, justifying a higher price even as it made cheaper incumbents obsolete.
This doesn’t quite work for Tesla: at the end of the day a Model S is still doing the same job as a traditional BMW or Mercedes-Benz. It just does it better: a Model S accelerates faster, it has more storage, it has innovative features like limited auto-pilot and a huge touch-screen interface, and you don’t have to stop at the gas station. Most importantly, though, it is a Tesla.
The real payoff of Musk’s “Master Plan” is the fact that Tesla means something: yes, it stands for sustainability and caring for the environment, but more important is that Tesla also means amazing performance and Silicon Valley cool. To be sure Tesla’s focus on the high end has helped them move down the cost curve but it was Musk’s insistence on making “An electric car without compromises” that ultimately led to 276,000 people reserving a Model 3, many without even seeing the car: after all, it’s a Tesla.
Thompson refutes the Clayton Christensen’s idea of ‘disruptive innovators’ like he and many others claim Apple and Tesla to be. It’s the strength of the Tesla and Apple brands that allows them to do and achieve what they do, not because they’re necessarily disruptive.
Put that in your disruptive pipe and innovatively smoke it, Christensen.