There’s no other way to say it: Elon Musk owns them.
Whether they are Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Porsche, they have all deferred to Tesla and its chief executive.
They may tell investors, the media and consumers at auto shows that they want to dethrone Tesla as the world leader in electric vehicles. But in reality the bosses of all these legendary companies want to be acknowledged by Musk.
To say that they are fans of the Techno King — Musk’s nickname at Tesla — is an understatement.
They will reject this characterization, of course, because it would send the wrong message to investors, who hope for fierce competition in the electric vehicle market. More seriously, they would lose their jobs because why should a fan-boy of Musk be running Ford or Volkswagen?
Musk Transformed the Auto Industry
They will tell you that they admire and respect Musk, who has transformed the industry. The list of Musk’s innovations is long, beginning with convincing politicians worldwide that EVs are the future and will contribute to a sustainable energy economy.
Musk and Tesla also introduced delivery of with new vehicle features and functionality via over-the-air software updates to vehicles. When an update becomes available, vehicle owners are notified and instructed how to install it.
This keeps their vehicles up-to-date with the latest innovations and gives the car manufacturer a steady source of income through subscriptions to the service updates. This also helps to minimize car recalls. From now on, all you need is a software update to fix a safety issue.
But the other day Jim Farley seemed overdeferential to Musk.
Ford’s CEO and the billionaire on May 25 held a live chat on Twitter Spaces, the platform’s live audio feature. The event was designed to announce that beginning in 2024, Tesla would enable Ford customers to recharge their vehicles at 12,000 Tesla supercharging stations.
Ford customers will need only to buy an about $100 adapter to recharge their batteries in just a few minutes in a selected Tesla supercharger.
The news is huge and comes at a time when carmakers are competing fiercely to woo consumers and persuade them to buy their electric models. The deal gives Ford an extra selling point for the Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV and the F-150 Lightning pickup truck.
But it doesn’t justify Farley’s continued thanking of Musk or mentioning the accomplishments of the billionaire and Tesla in almost every sentence during the half-hour conversation.
Here’s a sample of the compliments Farley gave Musk.
Farley Repeatedly Lauded Musk and Tesla
“This is a really, really big deal for our customers,” Ford’s CEO repeated the second time he spoke, after having already thanked Musk for the deal.
“We love the locations [of the superchargers selected for the deal], we love the reliability, your routing software, the ease of use of the connector, the reliability of it. I think it’s pretty amazing what you and your team have done for the customers.”
He could not hide his excitement, going so far as to recount a family scene linked to Tesla and Musk.
“I was on vacation with my family last year in Lake Tahoe. I was driving back, I think, to Monterey and my kids kept looking at me and going, ‘Hey, Dad, there’s another supercharger,’” Farley said, while explaining the process that led to him partnering with Musk.
He kept hailing Musk’s achievements.
“That’s a really big deal,” he said. “We don’t have as many EV customers as you do, but we still have plenty. And for them to be able to have this benefit early next year already and not have to, like, buy a new car is, I think, a real statement by you and the Tesla team, you know, to be really thinking, prioritizing the customers experience. So that’s really a big deal.”
Musk, no doubt embarrassed, had to interrupt this concert of praise. “That sounds great. Should we maybe take some we take some questions?” the billionaire said.
The conclusion of the conversation illustrates the pedestal on which his peers have put Musk.
– Farley: “I just want to thank you, and your team for, you know, working together on behalf of all of our customers and for all the customers calling in. Thank you.
“We’re really pumped up about working with with you to make our customers lives better. And we’re really thankful for your partnership.”
– Musk: “Likewise, it’s an honor to be working with a great company like Ford. I’m looking forward to doing perhaps more in the future.”
– Farley: “Well, yeah, and let’s do this. Again. I’ve learned a lot and, yeah, it’s a great platform.”
It’s Musk’s Moment
Farley is applauded for his strategy of separating the activities of gasoline cars, or Ford Blue, from those of battery-electric vehicles, or Ford Model e.
While investors may have doubts about some of the plan’s hyperambitious goals, they recognize that it enables Ford to unleash the creativity of its talent.
As Musk himself has often acknowledged, Ford is the automaker that did the most historical development in the auto industry before Tesla.
Farley clearly wanted to give the impression that he and Musk are buddies. What’s puzzling is that he leads America’s No. 2 EV maker, which has vowed to dethrone Tesla.
Partnerships with your enemies are laudable and desirable, but deference is admitting that you can never really compete with them.
Farley was overthrilled to share the stage with Musk. His voice could not contain his joy. Musk was happy to demonstrate the power of Tesla. He respects Ford and said so in his polite way of addressing Farley. He showed this respect in the way that those who recognize the pioneers usually do. But at the same time, for Musk that’s the past.
Now, it’s his and Tesla’s moment. He can be magnanimous and buddy-buddy with Farley and everyone else as long as everyone stays in their place (or lane).