Asymcar 24: Get rid of the Model T men

Should organizations hire people with industry skills and experience or capable, driven outsiders?

Horace shares tales from Henry Ford’s personnel practices during the Model T to Model A transition.

A discussion of aesthetics and jobs to be done. Tesla’s development, supply chain, aesthetics and market position while contrasting that with Toyota’s introduction of the Prius.

We close with speculation on what a “meaningful contribution” to the auto ecosystem might look like.

  • OrganicEaterOut

    Great episode. You made, IMO, a critical and fascinating observation about Tesla’s ultimate goal being market transformation, rather than domination. I think this is an important lens for strategists and investors to keep in mind when trying to understand Tesla’s behavior, which can seem irrational at times if one were to assume its primary aim is to maximize growth, profit, and long-term competitive advantage.

    On one hand it’s nuts, or at least highly unusual, for a publicly traded company to state such a goal. On the other hand, it demonstrates that this is a truly “mission driven” company, which can generate a lot of customer and employee recruiting power, if you build a decent product(s).

    Thinking about Tesla’s unusual goal and then listening to/ reading about Elon Musk, it appears Tesla is one of three companies – Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX – in which he is investing his time and money in order to accomplish an overarching job-to-be-done comprising two sub-JTBD’s:

    Big Job: Ensure (or make more probable) the survival of the human species

    Supporting Jobs:

    1. save our current planet, Earth, from climate change by replacing fossil fuels in transportation AND electricity markets with batteries (Tesla) and solar (Solar City);

    2. buy some insurance on Earth by colonizing Mars (SpaceX)

    These goals are shockingly bold and inspiring, and, some might say, crazy. I can see why Musk is a cult-like figure. I sincerely hope he gets jobs 1 and 2 done, though the odds seem pretty long. Either way, it’s cool to watch him try.

    • The framing I use is that Musk is motivated by solving the jobs to be done for the planet. My concern is that success stems from being motivated by solving the jobs to be done for the individual.

      • OrganicEaterOut

        Got it, though I don’t see these jobs as being mutually exclusive. They might even be synergistic. Musk knows he won’t get to solve jobs to be done the planet if he doesn’t first solve jobs to be done for the individual – cars are consumer products!

        What are the initial indications that Tesla can solve jobs to be done for the individual? I think the proof is in the pudding. When people I know who own a Model S start talking about it to me, it feels uncannily similar to when the iPhone came out and normal adults got genuinely excited and obsessed about a heretofore mundane item. Both products nail a combination of multiple jobs to be done. End result is a “magical” product that crosses the bridge between “sure, I bought one, I really like it’, to “wow, it’s amazing, you’ve GOT to get one!” This, for me, combined with sales numbers, is more valuable evidence of Tesla’s product chops than the glowing reviews in Consumer Reports, and mainstream car mags.

        With that said, the iPhone is the most successful consumer product of our times, whereas the Model S is simply not affordable for most and hence is a niche product, so Musk must bring the Model S product magic within reach of the mainstream with the Model 3. The Model X is a decent bridge. If Tesla can get well connected mom’s (and dads) excited, the brand power and lust factor will continue to build, helping build demand for the 3, while Tesla gets the Gigafactory built.

        My answer above is just focused on “can and does Tesla desire to solve individual jobs to be done” Right now, I think the answer is yes. Let’s see how Model X and 3 do.

        My answer isn’t meant to say Tesla’s stock is a long-term buy. There’s so much risk after the 3 comes out… especially if all automakers begin to convert to EV’s, At that point, Tesla’s mission will have been accomplished. While Musk is smart, driven, and has much of his personal wealth invested in the company, I can’t see how Tesla doesn’t take a bit of a breather if the 3 is a real hit and mainstream transportation starts to go electric. Where does the corporate energy and drive to conquer truly modular fab (as you’ve talked so much about), self-driving fleets, etc., come from when those movements get serious in 5-10 years? And yet after the 3, Tesla will still only have around 1% global auto market share. It may feel to them as if they have yet another multi-year mountain to climb at that point, and how much energy and competitive advantage will they have to do it?

        So, I think I agree with your long-term view on Tesla not conquering the global auto market and Apple being a more likely bet to be a truly disruptive entrant. But, I’d ask that you consider giving Tesla credit for already being pretty outstanding at solving individual jobs to be done!

  • Tony McCarthy

    Indulgence. Buying a Prius or Telsa is an indulgence in more than one sense, including the forgiveness of sin.