I suppose it’s finally time I write about Tesla.
This fall we had all the 1st graders and Kindergarteners in Marshall County visit the campus as a part of Indiana Promise. I ran one of the education stations and focused on teaching them the basic idea of running our cars on sunlight. I had a mini solar panel and our Honda Clarity, a plug-in hybrid electric car.
I was quite surprised when on two occasions I had 5- and 6-year olds mention Tesla vehicles.
WHAT?! How does a Silicon Valley car company with $0 advertising budget have brand name recognition in the mouths of a 5 year olds from Marshall County, where only a dozen EVs can be found, let alone a Tesla?!!
Another strange story…
Why was Elon Musk, CEO of said company which was valued at billions of dollars, hanging out at one of their showrooms on New Year’s Eve, helping to deliver cars to customers desperate to meet a midnight tax deadline? Surely there were plenty of invites to fancy parties with other VIPs. Yes, even the CEO’s mother was there (which only reinforces the idea that deep down, everything we are striving for is really about gaining our parents’ approval!).
And one more…
Also at that showroom on New Year’s Eve day were volunteers from the local Tesla owners club. They were conducting orientations for new car purchasers. For free. On behalf of a for-profit multinational car company. On their day off.
Can you picture people on New Years Eve day crawling out from under their warm blanket and heading to their local Ford dealership to volunteer delivering cars to customer? No, you cannot picture it, because that would never happen.
Something about this entity is different, and it’s working.
Tesla remains 5+ years ahead of any other manufacturer in terms of EV technology and experience, taking over half of the U.S. EV sales (EV’s are about 1 in every 45 new car sales). They make 3 of the top 4 selling fully electric cars, and the quickest selling – the Model 3 sedan – outsells the nearest competing model (the Chevy Bolt) nearly 9-to-1. The cars’ software is updated over WiFi, constantly adding new features and abilities in the garage while the owners sleep. They’ve built an extensive charging network across several continents, extending even up into the Arctic Circle.
It has brand recognition with 5 year olds in Marshall County, gets its cars featured for free in trending hip hop videos, and has even police chiefs in small town Indiana buying the cars for their low operating cost and silent operation, and 8 exterior cameras that monitor the exterior of the car 24/7.
As a caveat, let me say no, of course no institution is perfect, nor any CEO.
But what is different about this institution? How can a start-up company come out of nowhere and change the game on legacy manufacturers with billions in capital that still haven’t been able to come close?
I think a lot has to do with it’s mission. It’s only 11 words long:
The logistics of what they have done have surely been painfully complicated. But simplicity was had in their master plan & the mission. In return, they’ve almost single-handedly helped disrupt one of the most polluting industries on the planet.
Whether a multinational corporation, a mom-and-pop pharmacy, a church, or an unincorporated enthusiasts club, it’s hard to discount the central importance of a simple & compelling mission.