Tesla cofounder's advice to EV startups: Don't try to be Tesla
Tesla cofounder Martin Eberhard says EV companies shouldn't try to compete head-on with Tesla.
He said EV startups should try to find their own market and avoid launching Tesla-like models.
Eberhard left Tesla in 2007 but has worked at several automotive companies since.
Tesla cofounder Martin Eberhard thinks too many car companies are trying to beat Tesla at its own game and that it's a recipe for failure.
"My advice to anybody who wants to get into the EV space now is don't try to compete head-on with Tesla," Eberhard told Insider in an interview. "Don't make the exact same model."
Eberhard said he was disappointed by certain companies, like Lucid. He said Lucid is trying to compete directly against the Model S with a similar electric sedan, the Lucid Air. It unveiled its first prototype for the Lucid Air in 2016 and made its first delivery to customers in 2021. The four-door luxury sedan has a price range of $87,400 to $179,000 and can run up to 520 miles on a full charge.
Eberhard knows a lot of former Tesla engineers who work at Lucid, he told Insider. Eberhard said he worked at Lucid in 2015, when the company was still known as Atieva, but was "not a big fan" of its CEO and left after six weeks.
Lucid confirmed that Eberhard worked at the startup for a short period in 2015 but declined to comment on his departure. A representative for the startup pushed back on Eberhard's characterization of the Lucid Air, calling it a "new benchmark for EV sports sedans."
Ultimately, the Tesla cofounder said, companies need to stop seeing the automotive market as a "winner-take-all industry."
"There's different kinds of cars for different market segments," Eberhard said. "From the beginning, everybody at Tesla knew that, eventually, the auto industry would catch up with them and they would be competing against a bunch of other car companies."
He added: "The world has supported more than a dozen successful large car companies for generations. I don't see that changing."
Eberhard said he thought more companies should try to emulate Rivian's business plan.
"I'm much more enthusiastic, at least with the business plan, of companies like Rivian," Eberhard said. "Rivian has looked out there and said, 'You know, the No. 1-selling vehicle in North America is the F-150 truck.' So if we want to find a new market, that's a lucrative place to work."
In the early '90s, Eberhard and his longtime friend Marc Tarpenning came up with the idea for a company that would make cars powered by lithium-ion batteries. The two men founded Tesla in 2003, and Eberhard left the carmaker in 2007. Eberhard previously told Insider's Drake Baer that Elon Musk and Tesla's board had met behind his back and voted to replace him as CEO.
When Eberhard left, Musk said the departure was related to delays in the Tesla Roadster's production, as well as other operational issues.
"It was not a question of personality differences, as the decision to have Martin transition to an advisory role was unanimous among the board," Musk said at the time. "Tesla has operational problems that need to be solved and if the board thought there was any way that Martin could be part of the solution, then he would still be an employee of the company."
Musk did not respond to several requests from Insider for comment on this story. Emails to Tesla's press line were not returned.
After leaving Tesla, Eberhard served for about two years as the director of EV development at Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory. He has also worked at startups including SF Motors and launched two EV-battery startups, Inevit and Tiveni.
Read the full Insider interview with Martin Eberhard.
Do you work for Tesla or have some insight to share? Reach out to the reporter via email at email@example.com, on the secure-messaging app Signal at 248-894-6012, or through Twitter DM at @graceihle. Reach out using a nonwork device.
Read the original article on Business Insider