The auto industry has seen a number of disruptive events. For example, big gas guzzlers were pushed out of the way by rising gas prices to make room for smaller, more fuel efficient cars.
But the auto industry remains pretty much intact. They are still mostly sold in dealerships, still a mostly poorly designed capsule that is not particularly easy to reconfigure. Gas mileage is better, but still not nearly as good as it could be. Replacement parts are custom and exorbitantly priced.
Tesla has done a lot to open the door to disruption. They’ve made a retail electric car that people crave. They are bringing that car to the masses with their latest effort. They’ve done an incredible job helping build out an “on the road” charging infrastructure. And their sales model is closer to Apple’s than it is to any traditional automobile manufacturer.
But their cars are still recognizably cars. The major disruption is still to come.
Neil Cybart does a really nice job digging into some of the major elements that make a car a car, exploring ways in which each element is open to change.
Personally, I suspect the thing that will disrupt the auto industry into something truly brand new is the autonomous vehicle.
For the first time, the box on wheels can become a first class compartment, catering strictly to the needs of the passenger, without the need for a front seat dedicated to the driver. That single change is a before and after moment, a chance for a company with a pristine design sense to truly disrupt the auto industry.
Apple certainly has the design sense to create a uniquely beautiful, fantastically functional vehicle. If they throw their lot in with Tesla, together they can make vast (and sorely needed) improvements to the charging infrastructure. I’m looking forward to placing my order.