From Laughable to Revolutionary: Elon Musk, Tesla, and SpaceX

There is no dispute that in our current world, rapidly developing tech companies play a pivotal role in reshaping our future by introducing innovative solutions. Perhaps the most prominent example is Tesla Motors, one of Elon Musk’s many brainchildren (SpaceX, The Boring Company, OpenAI are also his creation), is one of the newest players in a field that strives to advance technology that will positively impact civilization. With an iconic leader, novel business models, futuristic innovations, flexibility to changing needs, and fast-paced implementation to meet ambitious goals, these companies differ greatly from the giants that have previously ruled the transportation industry. 

Tesla’s success has surprised consumers, competitors, and investors, with much of its incredible accomplishments rooted in Elon Musk’s unrealistic, childish desire to achieve the unfathomable fantasies of humanity. In 2004, when Elon Musk first joined Tesla as chairman, the idea of developing an electric car was revolutionary but laughable. The company’s philosophy revolved around the idea that while the combustion engine relies solely on oil for fuel, electric engines would be able to draw their electricity from a large set of options like hydroelectric generators, wind power, and solar power — all of which are far more sustainable. 

When the Roadster — Tesla’s kick-off electric sports car boasting 288 horsepower, 245 miles on one charge, 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and a hefty $109,000 price tag — was facing many issues with production, GM unveiled the Chevy Volt and Daimler announced plans to develop an electric Smart car. Although Tesla started the electrification revolution, they were at risk of being overshadowed by major car manufacturers even before they launched their first vehicle. The Roadster eventually rolled out in 2008, received great reviews, sold plenty of cars, and cemented Tesla’s reputation as a disruptive, sexy EV startup, while also providing the new company with valuable lessons and experience in building electric luxury cars without the pressure of mass production. The exclusiveness of the Roadster created much-needed buzz but it didn’t satisfy Musk’s plans to truly move every human being completely towards electric transportation. 

However, even with the success of the Roadster, Tesla faced bankruptcy with less than $500,000 in the bank, which is when Musk stepped up as CEO, pooled together emergency funds from various investors, and took a huge risk by betting on the company’s success. By impressing organizations and individuals with the newly developed Model S, building invaluable business relationships, and leveraging positive interactions with fellow CEOs, Musk’s leadership led to Tesla receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in financing from Daimler, the U.S. federal government, and Toyota. 

A Tesla Model X (Image: Don McCullough)

A Tesla Model X (Image: Don McCullough)

Elon Musk described the first Roadster as a failure due to its lack of accessibility and its imperfect release riddled with production issues. Recently, Musk made impressive headway in advancing the concept of affordable electric transportation with the huge success of the Model 3, the best-selling luxury car of 2018. The Model 3, priced at $43,000 and having sold 146,000 units in 2018, is a huge step up from the sale of only 2,400 Roadsters. The Model 3 took over the market despite Tesla’s complete lack of any advertising or marketing. Tesla utilizes direct sales (it does not sell through car dealerships, which upsets many major car manufacturers and has led to restrictions on states in which Teslas can be sold), boasts a SuperCharger network that provides a solid infrastructure (something its competitors lack), and thrives off of the constant buzz created by its eccentric CEO who works over 100 hours a week and launched a Roadster into space. In addition, Tesla is close to launching an electric semi-truck that accelerates faster than a Ford Mustang and boasts a complete solar roof; SpaceX is working towards its goal of taking humans to Mars; and The Boring Company plans to build a tunnel that will blast cars at 127 mph underground across Los Angeles for less than 6 minutes — all of which will further redefine the limits of what a company can do. 

Tesla threatens industries that are collectively worth $3.7 trillion, including current automobile manufacturers, oil companies, parts makers, car dealers, and others. Tesla is the first automobile company to go public since Ford in 1956, and this is presumably because of its immense risks and its fearlessness in prioritizing our collective future over conforming to current industry norms. Tesla doesn’t play the game — it has completely reinvented it, single handedly forcing every automobile organization to adopt electric vehicle plans for the future. Fully harnessing the magic of fantasies dreamt up by children playing with toy cars and plastic rockets, Elon Musk, Tesla, and SpaceX have completely reinvented the trajectory of the human race. 

Thumbnail image: taken on November 7, 2008 by JD Lasica