Case Study: Tesla Motors Changing the Automotive Industry

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While the auto industry has, on an average, seen only incremental improvements in auto body and feature design, this year has seen some radical innovation.

2013 has seen the world step closer to futuristic, almost sci-fi level cars.

There are three major players to be excited – and frankly for car makers – be concerned about: Google, Apple and Tesla Motors.  Self driving cars, iOS enabled auto software, and the electric car are all attempting disrupt the auto industry like never before. However, it is Tesla that has already begun shipping, selling and making waves in the industry.

The Electric car

Tesla’s offering is so simple it sounds almost ridiculous at first – a full electric car.  No need for gasoline or diesel. Tesla, using proprietary technology, has already made this happen with their Tesla Model S. The Model S has won rave reviews (Motor Trend Car of the Year, among other recognitions)

Electric charging stations

To charge the car on the road, the company began work last year on setting up a network of “SuperChargers” – charging stations to be placed in high traffic areas across America. Most radical of all – Tesla Model S owners will get a lifetime free access to the charging stations.  In numbers, an hour at the SuperCharger can give the car 240 km on the road in only 20 minutes.

The company also offers a battery swap on the Model S, allowing owners to simply switch the discharged battery at the charging station.

Sales Model

But what has the automotive industry up in arms is how the Tesla will be sold. To cut costs, Elon Musk is attempting to change legislature sell the car without channelizing the conventional dealer network, and sell directly to the consumers.

Media Criticism

More recently, Tesla was in the news when a New York Times journalist wrote a scathing (and factually incorrect) article about a drive on the S, attempting to show that it was not a great vehicle for a long drive.

Elon Musk, Chairman, CEO and Product Architect released what he called a “post-mortem”, a factually loaded rebuttal, backed up with the publication of the product data on the Tesla website, revealing this to be false. The journalist was found to be lying about the recharge data. And online activists, who supported newcomer underdog Tesla have successfully mapped and driven the same stretch of road without any reported incident, as a show of solidarity.

Can the auto industry be disrupted?

Other players are already making plans to shock the auto industry. Google has been running tests on the self-driving car. The car has used its sensor based navigation to traverse the infamously winding San Francisco Lombard Street’s steep turns and traffic, driven over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Among the 300,000 miles driven in the car is the story of Steve Mahan, a legally blind person who ws driven around in the self driving enabled Toyota Prius. Simultaneously, Apple is already working on a iOS enabled car interface.

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