Tesla And Elon Musk Can't Possibly Solve The Climate Crisis Alone

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Posted on EVANNEX on November 15, 2021, by Charles Morris

Of the plethora of pundits who publish predictions, prognostications and polemics about Tesla every day, some “get it” and some don’t. Many will simply never be able to understand how a company that supplies less than one percent of the global auto market could grow to a market value of more than a trillion dollars—more than the value of the legacy automakers combined. 

What many of these scribblers fail to grasp is that Tesla has a mission beyond that of making money for its shareholders (although it has certainly done a fine job of that as well). Yes, every company has a “mission” statement and a “vision” statement, but most of these are not to be taken seriously.

Those who tear their hair out over Tesla’s (to them) inexplicable stock-market performance assume that the company’s mission is like all the rest—meaningless marketing fluff. “Save the polar bears, make a better world for our grandchildren, yeah, yeah, sure,” says the grizzled, world-weary Wall Street analyst. “Talk about that stuff all you want, as long as you maximize profits.”

I submit that many of Tesla’s customers, investors and fans do not see things in this cynical light. Could it be that part of the reason for the company’s unprecedented success is that millions of people really do have hope for a future with cleaner air? That they understand that today’s oil-fueled transportation system is driving us towards disaster and that making the switch to electric vehicles is a necessary step to avert climate catastrophe?

Obviously, this is only part of the picture. Many Tesla buyers have zero interest in the polar bear thing—they’re attracted by the head-snapping acceleration, the fun high-tech features, or the chance to show off their wealth and coolness to their neighbors. In fact, the Tesla founders’ firm grasp of this fact of life was one of the company’s ace cards from the beginning. Musk, Eberhard, Tarpenning, Wright and Straubel were motivated by greenness, but they understood very well that most car buyers were not. Trying to sell an electric car on its environmental bona fides was (and still is) a losing proposition, so they set out to build “not the best electric cars, but the best cars.” And the rest is history.

Now, some may say that Tesla has strayed from its mission. The idea of building an EV for the masses seems to have been abandoned, as the company regularly raises its prices. Snubbing environmental leader California and embracing insurrectionist, climate-change-denying Texas has certainly rubbed some of Tesla’s long-time supporters the wrong way. But despite these missteps, I believe that the mission remains and that Tesla is still a positive force in the quest to decarbonize.

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