It has been a tumultuous 2018 for electric carmaker Tesla and its embattled CEO, Elon Musk.
Earlier this year, a handful of crashes involving Tesla vehicles increased scrutiny of the safety of their semi-autonomous Autopilot systems. Then there have been the ongoing manufacturing challenges causing lengthy and expensive delays in building the Model 3 – the mass-market electric car that Musk has banked Tesla’s future on. And Musk’s high-profile Twitter feuds with journalists, analysts and short-sellers have caused many in the industry to question his fitness to effectively lead a publicly traded company.
But whatever storm clouds may be hovering over the company today, Tesla has already made its mark, pushing the automotive industry toward what will likely be an all-electric future – no matter what happens to the company itself.
Think about it: Traditional automakers have been building electric vehicles for years, but Tesla has made EVs desirable. With the introduction of the Model S sedan in 2012, Tesla showed that EVs could be sleek, spacious and fast. And with hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for the lower-priced Model 3, Tesla demonstrated that it’s possible to create mass-market demand for EVs at a time of relatively low and stable fuel prices.
The major automakers are following suit with plans to introduce several new all-electric models in the next two to three years.
Tesla also has made electric vehicles practical with battery ranges that exceed 300 miles, pushing other automakers to do the same. After all, it was just a few years ago when the all-electric Nissan Leaf could travel only about 80 miles on a single charge. Today, Nissan has nearly doubled that range. And GM’s new Bolt offers a battery range of over 200 miles. But it took Tesla to show that there could be enough market demand for automakers to invest in the research and development of longer-range batteries.
So, what’s the future of Tesla? Will Musk remain at the helm? Will the company even exist five years from now? Who knows. But what I do know is that the state of electrified transportation would not be where it is today were it not for a relentless and visionary CEO who doesn’t hesitate to put all his chips on the table to change the industry – and the world.
Sean M. Lyden