Evolution Shift
A Future Look at Today
April 2nd, 2009

While the Automotive Dinosaurs of the 20th Century have Two Feet in the Tar Pit…..

The automotive industry of the 21st century is making promises and delivering on them.  As I wrote in a column four months ago, if the federal government is thinking about spending tens of billions to prop up the remnants of last century’s automotive industry, it should also spend billions to support the innovative auto industry of this century.  Our investments should be towards birthing the future, not just on keeping the dying on life support.

In recent emails, Elon Musk, the visionary entrepreneur and founder of Tesla Motors wrote about the progress his company has made at it looks to the future.  In early March Tesla sold its 250th roadster.  The purchaser writes about it here with wonder and pride.  Tesla is now manufacturing 20 roadsters a week and will shortly increase to 30 a week.  It has a paid waiting list of 1,000 which means that it is sold out through October.  This comes at a time when the Big Three are still trying to get 2008 model cars off their lots.

Granted, the Tesla Roadster is a car that costs a bit more than $100,000, has two seats and goes from 0-60mph in less than 4 seconds.  The good news is that Tesla last week unveiled the Model S, a sedan that they say will seat 7 and will get 300 miles per electric charge.  I am not sure about the size of those 7 people, but the Model S is a beautiful car.  Orders are being taken now with a delivery date of 2011, at a price, factoring in a federal tax credit, of $49,900.

Tesla has done a magnificent job of creating brand awareness.  Whenever I give a speech and talk about the coming electric age of the automobile there are always several people in the audience that know about the Tesla Roadster.  It has become the raised bar of electric cars.  Hats off to Musk and the entire company for showing the way toward the Age of the Electric Car, albeit at the high end of the market.

At the other end of the spectrum,  Tata Motors announced their $2,000 Nano car last week.  Years ago I wrote a column about Tata and its plan to build the compressed air car.  This car shows how narrow the definition of the automobile has been, that of being only an internal combustion vehicle using gasoline.  The Tata Nano, known to be in the works for a couple of years is the cheapest car in the world.  The initial market focus is the millions of people in developing countries that have, up to now, been only able to afford motorbikes.  Ironically, the fuel efficient Nano, with an internal combustion engine, give off fewer emissions than most motorbikes.  If the car sells well, Tata intends to expand the market for the Nano beyond India, to Europe, and even the U.S.  Let’s see, do I want a flat screen TV or a car?

We must all remember that the non- energy efficient internal combustion cars were invented last century.  While the companies that make them are moving quickly to make them smaller and more efficient they still are the descendants of a century old technology that is now slowly giving way to the cars of the 21st century, our collective future.  In the next two columns I will write about all that I have learned this week concerning hydrogen cars which along with electric cars, represent our collective automotive future

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In times of global uncertainty and disruption it takes a futurist to provide context and understanding.

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