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What do Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Toyota boss Akio Toyoda have in common? The same thing Bill Gates and the Pope do: they’ve been named to the Forbes magazine list of the world’s 71 most powerful people.
With 7.1 billion people now living on the planet, Forbes says its list is of the 71 who matter, averaging one person for every 100 million.
Of the political, religious and business leaders, just two (Musk and Toyoda) are the head of car companies, though both automakers vary greatly.
Ranked at number 66 on the list is Musk, the man who founded PayPal and used his fortune to fund Tesla Motors, which after selling its electric Roadster sportscar in limited numbers for years, went more mainstream in 2012, launching its Model S electric sedan, which has earned accolades from the automotive press, including being named Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year.
However, Musks’s position on the list has less to do with Tesla and more to do with another of his companies, SpaceX. Launching a rocket to the space station this year and delivering supplies, Forbes calls him “the most powerful man in space” and says that he, “stands to make out like a 19th-century railway tycoon.”
Ranking above Musk is the CEO of the world’s largest automaker and great-grandson of its founder (with the name to prove it), Akio Toyoda. With the Japanese auto-giant about to solidify its third year as the world’s top selling automaker, it has sold over 200 million vehicles since it was established. In addition to being an automaker, the company’s Toyota Financial Services division also makes Toyota a bank. In addition, Toyota is seen as a pioneer in green technology, with its Prius model synonymous with the word hybrid.
Compiled by Forbes’ senior editors, each of the 71 individuals on the list are there based on individual rankings in four “power categories”, including how many people they have power over, the financial resources they control, how many different areas they have power in (political, religious, economic, etc.), and finally, they must actively use their power.
Placing first on the list is US President Barack Obama, followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in third.
By Colum Wood
After offering to help Boeing with its lithium-ion battery problems, Elon Musk is somewhat raising the stakes. Musk, who heads both Tesla Motors and space exploration company SpaceX, has now called the batteries in the Boeing 787 “inherently unsafe” in an e-mail to trade publication Flightglobal.
There’s a fair amount of science involved, but for simpletons like this reporter, Musk basically says the lithium cobalt oxide cells used in the 787 Dreamliner are packed too close together, so that if one cell catches fire, the entire battery pack may ignite in a chain-reaction type situation, which is never good at 30,000 feet. Musk goes on to point out that the cells used in both Tesla vehicles and SpaceX’s space-launch rocket are smaller and separated from one another, so that any potential ignition is contained. Musk says offer to help but has so far been rebuffed.
About 50 Dreamliners were recently grounded because of two incidents, one a fire, involving the battery system. The US Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are currently looking into the cause of the 787 problems.
By Danny King
Launching A Space Ship Is A Snap Compared To A Car
Is it easier to put a man in space or an electric vehicle in every garage? Ask Elon Musk, the iconoclastic entrepreneur who heads up both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, the first private space venture to launch a vehicle and successfully dock it with the International Space Station.
The passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, comes to mind when thinking about Musk’s dual quest to remake the auto industry with electric vehicles and to privatize space travel. Back when Armstrong took that first small step, it was thought that if we could put a man on the moon, it was proof there was nothing mankind couldn’t accomplish, including stamping out poverty and curing cancer.
If history is a guide, it turns out it’s easier to do the moon shot than tackle a myriad of pressing social issues.
That is precisely what Musk may eventually discover – namely that it is far easier to build spaceships than it is to build an electrically powered family car that will appeal to the masses.
Matt DeLorenzo is the former editor-in-chief of Road & Track and has covered the auto industry for 35 years, including stints at Automotive News and AutoWeek. He has authored books including VW’s New Beetle, Chrysler’s Modern Concept Cars, and Corvette Dynasty.
With SpaceX, Musk is entering a relatively level playing field in which the door has been opened to private enterprise. NASA’s decision to end the Space Shuttle program has provided a big boost to these efforts. Businesses and governments alike still need to lift satellites and material for the ISS into orbit. SpaceX is reported to have nearly $2 billion in government and private contracts on the books and has a demonstrated track record of successful launches. While SpaceX is building Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules, its main product isn’t the boosters and capsules themselves, but rather the service of transporting men and material into space. Product improvements are made to make these rocketships more powerful or efficient in order to complete the mission rather than making changes to merely to meet the whim of the market. And most important of all, SpaceX retains total control over its hardware throughout the lifecycle. With no shortage of customers, a limited number of competitors, and demonstrated competency in its core business, SpaceX is positioned to thrive.
Tesla is taking on a mature industry with many competitors and excess capacity in an uncertain economic times.
Meanwhile, Tesla is taking on a mature industry with many competitors and excess capacity in an uncertain economic times. The automobile business requires huge investments on products that sell for relatively small margins. And while Tesla is an EV-only company, other major manufacturers, like Nissan, Honda and Ford, compete with Tesla with pure electrics of their own.
Furthermore, the Model S will compete not only with other pure electrics like the Nissan Leaf, but also conventional gasoline-, diesel- and hybrid-powered cars that offer more range, quicker refueling times and lower sticker prices. And while Musk promises more affordable EVs in the future, the cheapest Model S, which starts at just under $50,000 after a $7,500 tax credit, is still around $20,000 more than the average new car, which retails more in the neighborhood of $30,000. The truth is that unless internal combustion is banned by the government, there will always be less expensive alternatives to the EV, barring some miraculous breakthrough in battery technology.
There’s no doubt that Tesla has demonstrated that it can build EVs, as shown by the run of 2,000 or so Roadsters and that the new Model S offers credible performance (see MotorTrend’s recent test where the sedan clicked off a 60 mph sprint of 3.9 seconds while delivering more than 200 miles of range).
The real test of Tesla isn’t so much the ability to roll the Model S off the assembly line as it is how these vehicles perform in the real world.
But the real test of Tesla isn’t so much the ability to roll the Model S off the assembly line as it is how these vehicles perform in the real world. Its success lies equally with the performance of the hardware and the soft side of the business – sales, service and warranties. SpaceX is more like a business-to-business proposition on the wholesale level, while Tesla is dealing strictly at the retail level. Being able to please individual customers on a large scale is a difficult task, one that Tesla has yet to prove itself. Will its factory-owned dealer network be up to the task? How will the first recall be handled? Is it prepared for the product liability lawsuits that are an everyday fact of life for mainstream manufacturers?
If things don’t go well for Tesla, one scenario could have Musk selling Tesla off to either Toyota or Daimler, both of which have taken a stake in the company for its EV technology. In addition, under the new 54.5 mpg CAFE requirements, Tesla is in line to receive fuel economy credits that will prove to be extremely valuable to manufacturers who don’t have EVs.
Tesla has crossed the first formidable hurdles by producing the Model S at its California plant and delivering cars to consumers. But now the real work begins.
Click here to read AutoblogGreen’s recently published in-depth interview with Elon Musk in which he talks about financials, falcon doors and finding faults in the Model S
It’s official: Elon Musk is a bona fide celebrity. He’s appeared in Iron Man 2 and his actions appeal to people who don’t obsessively follow his work at Tesla Motors. Or SpaceX. Or who send money online. He also makes the late-night talk show rounds, and chatted with Jimmy Kimmel last week. Oddly enough, while Musk and his Twitter tirades against a questionable road test article in
Kimmel introduced Musk as the co-founder of PayPal and the founder of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, but he left out the electric car part. The interview was all about SpaceX and trips to Mars. “He will lead us to Mars whether we want to go there or not,” Kimmel said in the introduction. A brief bit of the interview went like this:
Musk: “I do want to go at some place, and it’s probably not a good idea for the CEO to be the test pilot”.
Kimmel: “What if we get to Mars and it sucks?”
Musk: “Well, Mars is a fixer-upper of a planet. But I think over time we can make Mars as livable as earth.”
Kimmel: “I’d love to have the first talk show on Mars.”
Shana Lynch, managing editor at Silicon Valley Business Journal, wrote about the interview, saying “Not that space isn’t more fun for nationwide audiences than earnings, but still. We felt a little left out.” You can fell left out yourself by watching the video below.
By Jon LeSage
Elon Musk is talking about maybe forming a holding that would own stock in both of the companies he’s incredibly busy with these days – Tesla Motors Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) – basically to simplify his life. “No actual plans under way,” he said. “[It] gets unwieldy to have lots of companies with me as the only connection.” The holding company may own public shares of both California-based companies. Tesla Motors went public in 2010, and Musk is looking at launching an initial public offering of SpaceX next year.
SpaceX has been doing pretty well lately. In May, it became the first private company to send a spacecraft to supply the International Space Station. In August, SpaceX landed a $440 million U.S. government contract to develop spacecraft for future cargo missions.
Tesla Motors is looking forward to becoming profitable, and that may happen in 2013 through sales of its Model S battery-powered sedan. Next year will see the launch of its all-electric Model X crossover sport-utility vehicle.
Musk also mentioned on a Web chat on Jalopnik that Tesla is thinking about rolling out an electric “supercar.” This would cost more than the Tesla Roadster – supercars from brands such as Ferrari and Lamborghini can cost more than $200,000.
This will need to wait about four-to-five years, he said. It was going to happen right after the Model X, but it might be a good idea to make a less expensive electric car, since it is “more important to the world that we do a more affordable electric car.”
As automakers are learning, offering more affordable electric cars is a good idea. A $7,500 federal tax credit is usually available, but on cars like Model S, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference. The Model S, which began production in June, has a starting price of $57,400 and can cost more than $100,000, depending on battery pack size and other options. If you’re thinking about buying one of these or a $200,000-plus Tesla supercar, a $7,500 tax credit is, proportionally, peanuts.
By Jon LeSage
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and chief designer of space exploration technologies for SpaceX, had a lighthearted umbrage moment with an affront made on him and his space travel company, recently. It wasn’t really the request made by animal rights group PETA that SpaceX trips to Mars only offer passengers vegan meals, it was how writer Amy Tennery ended her article with a quick side note: “unless Elon Musk were some kind of benevolent, kale-eating overlord of Mars, how exactly would he enforce this rule?” Musk joked on Twitter: “Also, I am not the kale eating overlord of Mars (altho kale has its moments).” His Twitter followers responded with support, such as cardoso’s posting: “Thank you Oh Mighty Emperor of Mars Steaks!”
By now, you may be wondering how this possibly happened. Well, a press representative at PETA had sent The Jane Doe staff an open letter written to SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The well-publicized launch of the SpaceX Dragon capsule last year, and Musk’s claim SpaceX would make it to Mars by 2018, got PETA thinking: “The opportunity to colonize Mars means a chance to make a fresh start, especially now that we’ve degraded our own planet by treating our fellow animals like disposable widgets, filled the air with pollution that will soon make the sky in ‘Soylent Green’ look clear, and populated the Earth with so many humans that the premise of ‘Logan’s Run’ starts to look practical,” the letter said
PETA thinks that serving vegan food to Mars colonists traveling to their new home, and leaving behind decimated planet Earth, means they might very well commit to enjoying an animal-free diet once they’ve arrived. We’d like to remind PETA about the 1972 film Silent Running, where space traveler Bruce Dern struggles to save the very last living vegetation from a destroyed planet Earth. Even vegan food might not be the easiest to come by in the future.
By Jon LeSage
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin may have called Elon Musk’s company a “loser” earlier this month, but Time magazine – not to mention Virgin Group chief Richard Branson – begs to differ.
Musk, the Tesla Motors chief, made Time‘s list of the world’s 100 most influential people, and it is Branson, who also founded the Virgin Galactic space-exploration company, is feting Musk for his leadership of SpaceX. “His Tesla Motors and SolarCity companies are making a clean, renewable-energy future a reality,” Branson writes in Time. “It’s a paradox that Elon is working to improve our planet at the same time he’s building spacecraft to help us leave it.”
Earlier this month, Tesla said it just completed its first-ever profitable quarter. And in February, Musk said his company would pay back its $465 million loan from the US Department of Energy in five years, or half the time previously projected. Check out Branson’s write up here.
By Danny King