I didn’t attend the Tesla Model 3 launch. Did I have to? Everyone knows my position: If you actually want to #MAGA, Tesla is your company, and Elon Musk is your man. Even if you hate the whole enterprise, even if the Big One destroyed Fremont tomorrow, the world is a different and better place because of what Musk has built at Tesla.
What the Model 3 launch proves is that Tesla’s not going away. Not ever.
Don’t believe me? Let’s study the history of warfare, which is that of business plus death. One would think that with stakes as high as they are, lessons learned from the study of war would guide business more than it does, at least in the auto industry.
The French have always been celebrated for their Champagnes, but their greatest gift to the world is actually a better understanding of war. The Maginot Line — built in the 1930s to repel the German infantry & artillery assaults of 1914-18 — was overrun in 1940 by the German Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war.” It wouldn’t have mattered if the French fortifications had extended to the English Channel, or if they had been fully manned; if it were pierced, armored columns could flow through.
Both during and after the war, the Allies expanded on Germany’s model of combined arms and maneuver warfare—and for forty years NATO and the Warsaw Pact prepared for a massive land war which would determine the struggle between capitalism and communism. Ready for the last war, France lost in Indochina in 1954, and was brought to a standstill in Algeria in 1962. The United States repeated this pattern in Vietnam in 1975 before the Soviets did the same in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.
Their foes — outmatched financially, logistically and technologically — were always fighting the next one. They had to, or fighting was pointless. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with the army you’ve got.”
The upstarts conducted asymmetric war, defined by belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy and tactics differ significantly, typically between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement.
Traditional automakers have a century of experience behind them, backed by vast sums of cash, massive infrastructure, and supply chains in which every efficiency has been wrung out. You’d have to be absolutely out of your mind to launch a car company at any point after the closing decades of the 20th century, during which their dominance became seemingly insurmountable.
Which brings us to Tesla.