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Can Tesla's Batteries Be Drained?

No car company has ever matched the outstanding success of the Tesla Model 3 launch. Even with a much higher price point, and a narrower customer pool to fish in, in its first two days it approached the numbers achieved by the original Apple I phone launch.

Are we witnessing, in real-time, a disruption of epic proportions or will the Tesla brand lose its charge?

History has proven that few brands, even the disruptive ones, can maintain their trajectory. They begin by seducing us with a new approach that engages, enlightens and redefines. Demand outstrips supply, and consumers become frantic even frothing. Few have ever approached that state of emotion like the Tesla 3. Consumers placed orders, with deposits, without seeing the product. Scarcity Marketing and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) at its very finest. Kudos.

FOMO Marketing at its Best

There have been many other brands that at one time appeared invincible. With a dominant share position, they could outspend the competition in media, distribution, product innovation and creation. Journalists became their groupies and they lapped up all the positive earned media.

Sony Walman did it with portable music and television as did Motorola with their Flip Phone. Blockbuster, Borders, Blackberry, Yahoo, Sears, Kodak, General Motors, Pan Am Airlines, The Gap, McDonald's were all, at one time, the Sheriff of their marketplace. Some have disappeared while others are dying from 1000 paperknife wounds.

There are no guarantees especially in a marketplace as hostile as this one. No one has a 'too big to fail' card. Who would have ever bet against Wal-Mart until the Dollar Star and Amazon both bit at its flanks? Will Amazon get flooded by Alibaba and other competitors, and will YouTube surrender its hold on content to Facebook?

Staying at the top means continuously reinventing your game.

What Tesla has done is teach an old dog, the automotive industry, some new tricks. They view design as much more than a sharp grill; marketing is more than a winding road television ad, technology is an enabler, and they are proving that an organization with purpose trumps an organization focused solely on profits.

Will the rest of the industry roll over and let Tesla own this new roadway to the consumer's head, heart and wallet? Not a chance. The question is who will rise to the challenge and try and drain Tesla's batteries, or at the very least ride in its draft?

The existing competitors will have to dramatically reimagine and rethink their business. Will they change fast enough? Are they capable of rendering much of what they know in product design, manufacturing, marketing and distribution obsolete? History will show that few can or do dismantle what they have spent their lives creating. Their response will most likely be one of adjacency, a compliment to their core offering which rarely matches a single-minded focus.

My bet is that Tesla's best competition will come from other disruptors.

Google doesn't see a driverless car; they see the opportunity that comes from someone not driving who is now free to search or watch YouTube videos. Apple's essence is to make technology transparent. They put 1000 songs in my pocket what will be their take on personal transportation? Uber doesn't believe we need more roads, just fewer cars on them.

I am curious whether Elon Musk, the founder and visionary behind Tesla can stay focused now the challenge is on scaling the company and delivering products in mass quantities that match the hype. Speaking of single-minded focus he has none. His self-declared goals extend far beyond being an automotive category killer. He wants to reduce global warming and the risk of human extinction by making life multi-planetary. He has plans for a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop, and a supersonic jet aircraft with electric fan propulsion.

These aren't the dreams of a raving madman. He is walking the talk as the Founder and Investor of SpaceX; the Chairman of SolarCity, and co-chairman of OpenAI. If Steve Jobs were around and redoing his legendary 1997 Ad Elon Musk would make an appearance as a 'crazy one'. I am not picking or predicting a winner. I am simply relishing and celebrating the contest. Only Wall Street survives by raising a share price by reengineering a balance sheet. True capitalism depends on the disruptors who reimagine and reinvent, who swing a sledgehammer. Those who chose to write history drive innovation, productivity, and our standard of living. They fuel our marketplace, they force others to raise their game, they put the human brain to the test. They are the crazy ones.


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