What began as a Silicon Valley startup, Tesla has quickly grown to be one of the most successful and appealing brands in the auto industry. They’re even branching out to other industries, like space travel and home energy.
While they weren’t the first company to create an electric car, their success in the market is unparalleled.
It wasn’t just a case of, “If you build it, they will come.” Other big-name auto companies had tried to make a car without emissions and failed. But with soaring greenhouse gasses, and gas-powered cars being one of the biggest contributors, it was clear that a market existed if a company could figure out how to make an electric car widely available.
So, what was the key to their success? We believe it’s that they understood just how powerful yes can be. Yes to revitalizing an industry. Yes to making electric cars available to the masses. Yes to harnessing new forms of electric energy. Instead of seeing challenges as roadblocks, they saw the opportunity no one else did.
A Brief History
The origins of the modern electric car date back as far as 1832 with Scotsman Robert Anderson’s invention. In the early 1900s, a surprising one-third of cars on the road were electric. It was also around this time that Ferdinand Porsche created the first hybrid vehicle.
So, what happened to electric cars in the 184 years since? Their biggest challenger—electric cars had a short battery life and couldn’t withstand rough rural roads—was the release of Henry Ford’s Model T in 1908. Because it solved those challenges and was affordable—it cost around $650, almost one-third the price of an electric roadster at $1,750—development on the electric model fell by the wayside.
A Fresh Start
In the late 1990s, more people and companies were becoming environmentally conscious and hybrids were growing in popularity, opening the door for Tesla, which set out to build a luxury car that could drive 200 miles on a single charge.
Tesla itself began as a simple question, “Can we build a viable electric car?” The answer to that question hinged on finding a way to increase the short driving range that plagued many early models.
Building on the technology of earlier hybrid and electric models, they found a way to use lithium-ion batteries, which were already widely available—proving that success doesn’t always mean saying yes to something new, but saying yes to a new angle.
Using these batteries, they were able to take advantage of hybrid technology of converting energy from braking back into power, while fueling rocket-like acceleration.
YES to Economy of Scale
Tesla’s history of yes taught them to do the same in all corners of the business. While they had investors early on, they needed to generate cash flow to continue operations.
One way of doing this was choosing to sell cars themselves rather than going through dealerships, which cut fees and sped up the time from assembly line to road.
They also started taking pre-orders to get cash flow, even before the cars were built.
But perhaps the smartest move was financing the more economic vehicles with early, high-end models. In 2008, Tesla successfully launched their high-end Roadster, which paved the way for the next iteration, the Model S. That helped finance the Crossover, which finally led to the Model 3, a car affordable and roomy enough for the average driver.
YES to the Relentless and Unyielding Pursuit of Innovation
While Tesla set out to make sustainable transportation a reality, their attitude of yes is also giving rise to other technologies, like driverless cars, energy, and battery innovation.
They’re working alongside SolarCity, so that people who own both a Tesla and solar panels on their homes can not only offset their car’s electric charge, but if fully utilized, can actually supply energy back into the grid.
They’re taking home energy one step further by creating battery packs that store and supply energy to individual homes, taking them off the grid altogether. Plus, they’re partnering with Panasonic to create scalable battery packs for commercial and utility-scale projects.