Shai Agassi is offering advice to automakers worried about the power of Tesla Motors: compete directly with fellow mega-OEMs, not with Tesla. Agassi, who founded the now-defunct Better Place, made a few interesting points on his LinkedIn page recently. Like the rest of the green car Internet, he noticed a wave of articles on General Motors doing some reconnaissance work lately on Tesla. A recent Fortune article, for example, focused on how Steve Girsky, GM's vice chairman and a former leading analyst on Wall Street, is leading GM's secret team to get a firm grasp on Tesla's potential to grab a larger share of the market, and not just luxury cars.
Auto executive, analysts and commentators are missing the point, Agassi says. Some of them think Tesla should open its doors to GM and other automakers - as it has done with Daimler and Toyota - to spread its powertrain technology to the mass market. This is wrong, Agassi wrote, because, "what works for Tesla will not work for GM, and most likely be value destructive for any mass-market incumbent."
Agassi made an analogy to a yachting race that major automakers are in now with Tesla. Automakers may think they need to sail along a similar course, but Tesla's catamaran has already surged ahead and is gaining tremendous speed. "If Captain Musk allows you to peek onto his boat and monitor his instruments you should also take advantage to learn the ocean currents and wind pattern he's mapping along the course," Agassi wrote. Agassi advises that automakers need to see things differently. Owners of the Model S are fascinated with that car and they love the experience of owning and driving it. Mass market automakers "should offer more of a car for less cost than comparable gasoline cars.... not the other way around," he wrote. It's not an impossible plan, since electric car prices will come down with the cost of their battery packs. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently commented in an analyst call that he sees battery cost dropping under $200 per kilowatt hour soon versus the $500 per kWh that was typical five years ago when the Tesla Roadster was launched.
As far as the legal battle between Tesla and dealer groups, Agassi thinks automakers need to think about it differently. Launching a new brand for EVs and going the direct sales route would allow automakers to control the brand experience, and to benefit from lower per-unit cost of sales once the volume starts to pick up, he wrote. You can read the whole thing here.