Tesla Motors has been success after success, and this young company has started to attract the attention of long-established automakers, like General Motors, who have been around for over one hundred years.
Despite this long history in the United States, General Motors hasn’t maintained any kind of lead in sales or innovation, especially since the latest recession. How can a startup company, like Tesla Motors, the first automobile startup since Ford Motor Company fifty years ago, upset the status quo so much?
Really, the same thing happened after the 1974 OPEC Oil Embargo, when suddenly those tiny import vehicles from Japan made a whole lot of sense. American automakers were caught with their pants down, and small Japanese automobiles have been a major player in the market ever since.
Steve Girsky, General Motors Vice-Chairman, said “Tesla Motors could be a big disruptor if we’re not careful. History is littered with big companies that ignored innovation that was coming their way…” It’s true, sometimes big companies start to become complacent, ignoring innovation from without and not fostering it within.
If you don’t keep growing, you’re falling behind. General Motors CEO, Dan Akerson, recognized the Tesla Motors threat and put it to his listeners at a company forum that was ostensibly to celebrate innovation. “We had people with 20 and 30 patents,” he told them. “How many have we commercialized? How many are in our cars? None.”
Patents on their own aren’t worth anything. Unless there is some profitable product coming out as a result of such innovation, then it’s just a waste of time. Unless General Motors comes up with some serious innovations in the automobile market, it may just fail to attract the kind of buyers that are currently going for Tesla Motors.
So, General Motors is pushing for more innovation that is actually in a product. We’re expecting the Chevy Volt to see a price drop, as well as possibly longer range. Can General Motors‘ new approach win them the customers they need to remain relevant in a Tesla Motors world?