A little meme is a powerful thing. In the same way it got obsessed with Keanu Reeves being sad, and cats hasing cheezburgers, the internet has memefied Nikola Tesla and Henry Ford into modern-day saints.
The hero-worship morphed from simple, loving memes to ones comparing the two inventors to:
- Each other;
- Thomas Edison (whom the internet hates);
- Paris Hilton;
- Steve Jobs;
- And, most relevant of all: Elon Musk.
Prolific entrepreneur and CEO of a company named after Tesla (that makes cars, like Ford), Musk is certainly worthy of being measured up against his fellow inventors.
Ford, Tesla and Musk: the similarities
There’s something undeniably Ford-like in a lot of Musk’s quotes:
“I would like to die on Mars, just not on impact.”Elon Musk
“Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants, so long as it’s black.”Henry Ford
Musk also has a blatant appreciation for his predecessors. While he was not personally responsible for naming his company Tesla Motors, he is the CEO. And the vehicles Tesla Motors releases follow the theme of paying homage to the past. Ford’s flagship vehicle was the Model T. in 2018, Musk will be unleashing the Model 3. It’s a bit too much of a stretch to suggest that’s a coincidence.
Musk, like Tesla is working on inventions that will drastically change our relationship, as a species, with our environment. He is involved in multiple businesses that are at the forefront of space exploration (SpaceX), environmentally friendly cars (Tesla) and harnessing renewable energy (SolarCity). The guy is working on a reusable rocket, taking the whole “shoot for the moon, land among the stars” thing as literally as it’s possible to take it.
While his inventive exuberance has the immediate flavour of Tesla, there is something distinctly Fordian in the idea too. Musk is looking to streamline and simplify the process of getting humans into space and, if he is successful, his reusable rockets will cut a lot of costs. This is the kind of practical venture Ford would approve of.
Tesla Motors’ tightly integrated supply chain is also heavily reminiscent of Ford. Just as Henry Ford chose to make his own parts, instead of outsourcing, Musk has built a “Gigafactory” to build the special batteries for his electric cars. The factory commenced production in January 2017 and gives the company supreme control over the construction and cost of this vital component.
Tesla, Musk and Ford: the differences
With his Model T, Ford invented the first automobile accessible to the middle class. Musk’s luxury, electric vehicles, meanwhile, have a price-tag to suit. Tesla Motors’ Model X SUV starts at $122,812. That includes the luxury car tax but not the full on-road costs. And that’s just the first iteration of the car. If you want more range, the price goes up with a top of the range p90D clocking in at more than $200,000.
We’ve already mentioned the new Model 3. The car with the moniker that pays homage to Ford’s Model T. This particular vehicle will come at a fraction of the cost of the other Tesla Motors vehicles. In Australia, we can expect to pay around $60,000. While that’s half the starting cost of the luxury models, it’s still not quite in line with Ford’s ethos of making vehicles affordable for the masses. But what Musk is doing is different. His focus is not so tightly pinpointed.
Where Ford was intent on streamlining and endlessly improving his vehicle production, Musk’s attention is far more scattered. Tesla Motors could certainly make more affordable cars. But price is just one facet of a far bigger mental picture Musk is weaving into reality. His company is making vehicles that are eco-friendly, self-driving, quiet, efficient and beautiful to look at. You can see the influence of Ford and Tesla but he has evolved their philosophies in pace with the evolution of technology and human understanding.
Musk is a next gen inventor. He is what virtual reality gaming systems are to pong. Not because he is better, worse, the same, different, or an Illuminati-controlled clone of Henry Ford. Just because, as we humans do with everything, he is building on the past to create the future. Musk’s similarities with Ford and Tesla are a nod to his inspiration. His way of subtly honouring the people whose inventiveness paved the way for what he is able to do now.