Inside Source Says General Motors’ “Team Tesla” Should “Scare the Sh*t Out” of Elon Musk

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 59

Does GM's "Team Tesla" Scare Musk?

Does GM’s “Team Tesla” Scare Musk?

Remember when General Motors made it publicly known that it was assembling a Tesla task force?

Musk is Probably Scratching His Head Over This "Team Tesla" Stuff, But We Doubt He's Scared By It

Musk is Probably Scratching His Head Over This “Team Tesla” Stuff, But We Doubt He’s Scared By It

That task force was put in place to analyze the disruptive nature of Tesla.  At the time of its creation, Steve Girsky, GM vice chairman, stating this of the task force: 

“He [Akerson] thinks Tesla could be a big disrupter if we’re not careful.  History is littered with big companies that ignored innovation that was coming their way because you didn’t know where you could be disrupted.”

Now, a GM insider, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that the task force is something Tesla CEO Elon Musk should fear.

Automotive News quotes this insider, who is close to the “Team Tesla” (an internal name apparently used by GM) task force, as stating this:

“The fact that GM is studying Tesla should flatter Elon Musk, but it should also scare the sh*t out of him. When you wake up the sleeping giant, look out.”

We highly doubt Musk is scared by GM.  It’s likely the other way around.  Why else would GM assemble a Tesla task force?  As far as we know, Tesla has not assembled a GM task force and it likely never will.

Source: Automotive News

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59 responses to "Inside Source Says General Motors’ “Team Tesla” Should “Scare the Sh*t Out” of Elon Musk"

    1. Lad says:

      Beating Tesla is simple: Be the first one to mass produce a safe, low-cost, high energy, light-weight battery that can power a 2500 lb car an honest 200 miles at freeway speeds. All the rest of the engineering is common and well-known, including the ability to fast charge. In fact the electric drive concept has been around for a hundred plus years.

      I don’t see that Elon has any fear at all as he has stated his goal is to bring BEVs into the main stream and to save human life from the destructive forces of the Universe. Someone with those goals could care less about an Earth-bound ICE manufacturer run by ego-eccentric bean counters.

  1. Nelson says:

    Elon should invite “Team Tesla” to the factory to see how EVs should be built.

    NPNS!
    Volt#671

    1. scott moore says:

      Going back in history, when Philo Farnsworth had TV working in his lab in San Fransisco, Vladimir Zworykin, later the chief scientist working on TV at RCA, visited the Farnsworth lab. He actually admitted copying what he saw, and later stated that none of it was much use to him in his RCA work. David Sarnoff used the power of RCA to crush Farnsworth, so successfully that only today, history is finally being set right, with Philo finally getting proper credit for his invention.

      At the time Zworykin came to Farnsworth labs, I’m sure he had similar thoughts about his invincibility.

      1. C Miles says:

        More than likely that Musk knows those stories about Farsworth and Zworkin.

        Don’t forget how Nikolai Tesla was maligned by Edison. (Edison’s staged electrocutions via Tesla/Westinghouse AC Power). I’m sure Musk is aware of that too. AC power won in the end, as it was the right tech, at the right time.

        He is also aware of how Steve Jobs once visited the (then much larger) Xerox PARC and saw a mouse driven object style OS – and pressured the Xerox brass to let him see more of it on a second visit. Lisa and the Mac then appeared.

        It’s not size- it’s timing and execution.

        If Musk was afraid of the big boys, why in the world would Space X even be in business? For that matter, how is he able to come in at nearly the same reliability as launchers from Boeing and Lockheed and at much less cost?

        I was not necessarily against the GM bailout- but Tesla suffers no stigma from that, and no one remembers Musk’s brand engineering, decades of mediocre cars, etc.

        The Giant is awake, and that’s a good thing- but before it starts lumbering toward Palo Alto it should probably fix its perennially money losing OPEL division before throwing stones at little old Tesla.

        By the way- GM had access to much of this Tech. The Sunraycer team (later the Impact team) created very advanced power management tech. Some of the folks ended up in the limited/short EV-1 program. Wanna guess where the rest ended up?

  2. David Murray says:

    I would agree that GM is the one that is scared, and so they should be. Right now the only thing they have are the Volt, ELR, and Spark EV. None of those can compete with Tesla right now. And when Tesla comes out with their 3rd gen product, what will GM have that can compete?

    The only hope they have is for a 2nd generation Volt which better have at least 60 miles all-electric range and better have zero to 60 performance of at least 6.5 seconds. It better charge faster and top it all off by being the current price of $34,185 or less. It also better look pretty cool! That would be a product that many people would consider cross-shopping between a low-end Tesla.

    There other option is to come out with a similarly priced all electric vehicle with a range of 150 miles or better and also zero-to-60 performance of 6 seconds or less. Again, it better look cool and be fun to drive.

    You can bet Tesla’s 3rd gen product is going to look cool and be fast. And if we’ve learned anything is that looks and speed sell cars. GM better take note.

    1. Anthony says:

      I don’t think the baseline Volt needs to be that good.

      If I were GM I’d actually be focusing less on a second-gen Volt performance (45mi AER, and 40MPG would be plenty) and be a lot more focused on a plug-in crossover and mid-sized 5-passenger sedan because those are the cars Americans are actually buying. Get that Equinox sized crossover to get 40mi AER and 30MPG for 35K, then we’re talking!

    2. Taser54 says:

      Tesla proponents always point to a 3rd gen product that is years away as some sort of ultimate trump card. Nothing has shown that Tesla can produce such a vehicle-it would be amazing for consumers if they do.

      Just because GM does not announce the specifics of its future EVs, does not mean that they don’t have them planned. The public knows that GM has a team dedicated to responding to Tesla. How else will they respond other than to produce a low-cost EV?

      Only time will tell and hopefully, the consumer will be the victor.

      1. Stuart22 says:

        Tesla has proven they can make a very good car that is very expensive, but making a very good car that is priced in the $40k range is a far more difficult task, a task that GM already has been pursuing for a number of years. Tesla could very well find themselves coming up short with regard to coming up with a competitive product in this area of the market.

        Where Tesla is at a clear advantage over GM is in their direct sales approach and in their after sales support – the Supercharger network. If Tesla can out-compete big boys like GM in the $40k market, it may likely be more due to superior sales and support and less about having product superiority over the competition.

        1. Jeff D says:

          Where Tesla has the advantage is putting high quality electric technology in a vehicle at a price point you would pay for that car. On the other hand, GM and all the other companies are putting expensive electric technology into vehicles that people don’t want to spend that much money on. Why spend $30,000 to $40,000 on an electric Focus if you can spend that money on a car that performs with a similar priced BMW or Mercedes. If you can only afford the regular Focus at $15,000 to $20,000 you are not going to buy an electric vehicle unless it is that same sort of vehicle for a similar price. That is why the Leaf is selling so well.

          1. Stuart22 says:

            I kind of agree with you – Tesla shot high with their conception and ended up in the most premium sector of the market, where being the only EV around they became legend by utilizing their instant torque to clean the clocks of the hottest sedans from BMW and Benz.

            Where I disagree with you is your cavalier comment about Tesla being at a price point I would pay for that car. I’m make my living as a struggling artist, not as a trust fund charmboy. IOW I’m in the $40k league.

            As much as I admire Musk and Tesla, I don’t see them repeating the surprising success they’ve had in the $90k+ market segment when they try going down market to my neighborhood.

            1. Rick Danger says:

              What Jeff meant was, that the Model S is competitive with other cars in it’s price range. That’s the whole point in wanting to move to a higher volume, lower priced car, that is competitive in *it’s* price range. It’s been part of Musk’s and Tesla’s plan all along. You really don’t think they can pull it off?

              I guess you’ll have to wait and see.

      2. Kent G says:

        I beg to differ: Tesla has shown that — out of the box — it can build a killer car that outperforms many very expensive sports cars, looks gorgeous, handles beautifully, earns Motor Trend Car of the Year, the best score ever given by Consumer Reports and the safest crash record of any car ever tested. Out of the box. In one year, it has outsold the most comparable luxury models from Mercedes, BMW, Audi. It has already outsold many established makes and models in California. Within a few short weeks of introduction, is has already become the number one selling car in Norway — this is all cars, gas or electric. And, Tesla has yet to really launch its secret weapon in the USA — i.e. the Supercharging network. By the end of this year, one will be able to drive from LA to NYC for free. By the end of next year, more than 80% of Americans will be within 200 miles of a supercharging station where they can get free fuel for life. By the end of this year, one will be able to drive from LA to NYC for free. Id say any car maker with brains should be shaking in their boots right now, as –when Tesla delivers a mini Model S (i.e. the Model E) that gets free fuel for life for $35,000, those gas car makers will be history. They cannot compete. Even electric car makers will have to pay Tesla to use its network — or die. Tesla will rule the friggin world! Just watch.

    3. scott moore says:

      Why is everyone here so taken with the volt? Its a niche hybrid that disappears quickly as pure EVs advance.

      1. MTN Ranger says:

        Because it allows me to drive daily solely on electricity and take long trips with only one vehicle. Currently for me, there is no competition at this price (except maybe the i3 ReX next year). Other people must feel the same way; it happens to be the top selling PEV.

      2. Stuart22 says:

        The Volt has brought many people into the EV market segment who otherwise would never have gone electric beyond a Toyota Prius. And no, I’m not going to waste any time trying to argue you away from your denial of its full performance EV credentials for 40+ miles.

      3. CodyOzz says:

        “niche hybrid”? Excuse me? It’s a vehicle that works for 80% of american commuters! These are people who live somewhat predictable lives, but in fact demand that their car be able to drive 700-800 miles in a day if they need be.
        The Tesla is the niche car, as you can only drive it for about 3 hours(200 miles), then wait one hour, then drive another 3 (400 total @7 hours), then wait another hour…, then 3 (600 miles total @ 11hours)… then wait another hour. It can be done.. but then you are only touring Fast Charging stations for 100% of your journey. Forced to stop and sit at places along their network.
        It can be done, but by definition, that is a niche customer, one that follows a single path.
        We own a Volt and can drive it anywhere, fill/charge on our schedule/location and do what we wanted to from the get go, to enjoy our vacation in the places we want to go.
        It’s odd, but I agree with you in a way, the EV is coming.. and it will be better in the future, but to call the Volt a niche vehicle is to seriously sell it short. Both the Tesla and the Volt easily can travel 70 miles on electric a day, but only the Volt can drive 10 times that without careful planning and 3 one hour breaks at some 10 differnt locations in … California! lol

        1. Ova-Nee says:

          How often does an average America drive 700-800 in one day?

          1. Ocean Railroader says:

            It’s not uncommon for people to have jobs where they have to take several 100 mile to 200 mile trips in one week.

            As for plug in hybrids they area really popular in Virginia in that I have seen dozens of them but never any pure EV’s yet.

        2. muchski says:

          Some fact checking is needed. With the 120 kW Tesla Superchargers rolling out you can 200 miles of range in 20 mins and they have hinted they might be able to eek that out in 10 mins if they can tweak the technology further. Even with the standard 90 kW chargers your figure of 1 hour for 200 miles is blatantly wrong. It is under 1 hour for a full 265 mile charge and 30 mins for 150 miles.

          The fact is even with the 90 kW charges if you start with a full battery a standard road trip might be 2x 40 min stops to get 200+ miles range which is 685 miles of range which is plenty enough for one day of driving and considering it takes at least 10 mins each gas stop + time for eating, the Model S is already competitive with highway driving in a conventional internal combustion engine.

          I’m glad you enjoy your Volt and it suits your needs and budget, but don’t try to knock a very compelling alternative from another manufacturer that is perfectly usable for city or road trips today.

    4. Anton Wahlman says:

      Uh, no. Most prospective Volt customers care zero about those things. All they want are (1) lower price and (2) some bigger body options — minivan, SUV. The EV range is fine, acceleration is fine.

      That said, separately from the Volt, you can be sure that by 2016 GM will deliver all-EV cars with over 200 miles of range. The question is: At what price will they be able to deliver 300 miles? $80,000-$90,000?

    5. Bonaire says:

      My opinion is the EV market should not be a battleground.

      Everyone must win in the EV marketplace. Things won’t progress if there is exclusivity competition and some company trying to win over another. They all should win.

      Let the issue of market valuation of the stock work itself out separately. Tesla and GM should get along and figure out how to make EVs work for everyone. I dislike how Tesla has an exclusive “SuperCharger” and says that it is the only way EVs should be built and charged while travelling. They say they will licence supercharger access to others but you know that won’t work out in the long run. It would be like an exclusive gasoline blend for one or a few types of cars.

  3. Taser54 says:

    Well, the author makes a point, but the corporate landscape is also littered with disruptive innovations firms that failed (Blackberry, iomega). Why did they fail, because competitors saw that change was being forced upon them and decided to innovate or embrace the disruptive technology themselves. That’s why Apple turned itself around from a company where it required an infusion from microsoft to continue to one that crushed blackberry at their own game.

    GM has indicated that it is taking Tesla seriously and Tesla should be concerned. GM has the manufacturing and design base to rapidly implement change. The question is whether GM will actually use everything it has in response to Tesla.

    We will see, but it is a very fragile time for Tesla. Only one product to market at a relatively low volume.

    1. BartGrantham says:

      > That’s why Apple turned itself around from a company where it required an infusion from microsoft to continue

      This is a misconception that really needs to stop being repeated. Microsoft bought $150M in Apple stock, which certainly didn’t hurt Apple, but it wasn’t a make-or-break deal. The real benefit of the deal for Apple was that they got Microsoft to agree to continue building Office and IE for MacOS and they also put an end to litigation that was a real distraction for them. Plus it was a signal to the market that Microsoft believed that Apple wasn’t about to collapse. Microsoft got IE shipped with MacOS instead of any other alternative, an end to the lawsuits and a cross-licensing agreement, and evidence against the case against them from the DoJ.

    2. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      Seems to me, using your comparison, Tesla’s Apple and GM is Microsoft. Since that deal, which company has been more successful, and why?

  4. Alaa says:

    You make it sound as if Elon did something wrong.

    1. Rob says:

      Ask Eberhard…

      1. Dan Frederiksen says:

        who? : )

        Eberhard took a payoff for his silence and laid down and died. He deserves his erasure from history.

  5. pjwood says:

    It’s not what GM is capable of, It’s what they are willing to try.

    Musk doens’t lose a dollar, for every dollar not spent on a gas car.

    1. Foo says:

      …and Musk *wants* all the other automakers to compete in building electrics. The electrification of the automotive industry is what Musk is after, NOT necessarily to make Tesla the winner.

      1. Bonaire says:

        Then he should open source the SuperCharger protocol and his own products and help sew the seeds towards proliferation. Google was quite open about opensourcing much of their product set. They’re quite successful.

    2. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      And Apple doesn’t lose a dollar for every iPod that isn’t bought, in favor of an iPhone.

      If you’re going to be cannibalized by newer, better tech, better cannibalize YOURSELF before someone comes along and eats you. That’s Apple’s lesson. Seems that Tesla probably understands that better than GM, but I suppose we’ll see with the pricing on Model X later on.

  6. ThombDBomb says:

    Sure, GM got lazy for a while. But, thy developed the Volt in relatively short order. So, it is possible that they can rise to a challenge. Being extremely large, deep, and nimble is something people should not discount.

    1. Rick Danger says:

      GM nimble? GM is like the Titanic, and they already steered it into an iceberg once.

      If GM was really serious about EREVs, they would have already moved the Voltec power train into a crossover vehicle that could carry 5 and luggage to match, and be working on putting it into pickups and vans where it could make a vast difference.

      If GM was really serious about EVs, they would have put the power train into the better looking and more popular Sonic, and be ramping up to sell it nationwide.

      1. Rick Danger says:

        Lutz was the man who pushed for the Volt, and Lutz doesn’t work for GM anymore. Funny though, Lutz is the one trying to put EREV drive trains into pickups and vans, not the “nimble” GM.

    2. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      LOL I’ll believe it when I see it.

      GM’s talking the talk, but Elon’s walking the walk. Me, I don’t think GM has bad enough dudes to build an (ER)EV that makes their gas-powered offerings look quaintly old-fashioned.

  7. Ocean Railroader says:

    Considering GM had the EV1 back around 2003 and they talked about how in several versions they replaced the lead acid batteries with lithium cells which made the car lose hundreds of pounds and a cording to them raised it’s range to 150 miles at the time. Given the price of lithium batteries is falling over the last few years it’s not out of the question that GM could have something in their garage already. But in terms of them using it based off how they are treating the Chevy Spark well there too stuck in the 1950’s to unleash this thing on Tesla.

    The fatal flaw though for Tesla is that Elon Musk might say to many things about generation 3 over and over again and nothing comes and say Nissan raises the range of the Nissan leaf to say 150 to 125 miles range. Personally if it was me running GM I would give Tesla the knock out blow to show them who’s boss by releasing the EV2.

    1. Foo says:

      What a bunch of silly things to say.

      Firstly, Musk *wants* all the other automakers to electrify their vehicles. That has always been his stated goal with Tesla, to shame the other automakers into innovating, and rid the world of the internal combustion engine for everyday travel.

      Secondly, Tesla’s business plan has always been long and consistently made clear: low-volume/high-cost (Roadster), mid-volume/mid-cost (Model S), and high-volume/low-cost (Gen3). The Gen3 isn’t some “vapor car” they are just talking about, it has always been the long-term plan. So far, Tesla has executed everything to plan.

      1. Jeff D says:

        I agree. If GM is able to come out with a $30,000 electric car with 200 mile range, it just means that Elon will continue to up the ante. Not because he wants to beat GM or any other car company for that matter, but wants to keep pushing them harder so that he gets his way and electrifies the car for everyone.

    2. scott moore says:

      And I would not buy an EV2. It was a crappy styled car build with last century materials. It would need to be completely redesigned to be competitive.

      1. Ocean Railroader says:

        I picture the EV2 being sort of like how the Queen Mary 2 is a completely modern ocean liner compared to to the original 1930’s ocean liner the Queen Mary. Such as it would be built to state of the art EV tech that GM has.

        As for Tesla Elon Musk could up things by coming out with a 400 mile or a 500 mile battery pack for his higher end cars or a large electric pick up truck. In that a EV pick up truck would rock GM down to it’s gas guzzling core.

  8. Mark C says:

    Remember when Cadillac was advertised as the standard of the world? It’s been so long, most people who could say they remember are dead and buried. Mr. Musk is not a personal friend of mine, so I can’t be 100% certain, but I really doubt he is quaking in his boots.

  9. Spec says:

    Tesla should be worried. GM literally has a century of experience with mass manufacturing and supply chains. If they can design a decent car, they can really undercut Tesla due to their manufacturing experience. And the plug-ins they have built so far . . . the Volt, ELR, and Spark EV, have all been pretty good.

    1. David Murray says:

      I agree that they’re pretty good. But I think everyone is expecting Tesla to deliver a pure battery electric in the same price range as the Volt. And you can be sure that it will look cool and be fast. So then you have to ask what GM will need to do to stay competitive with that. As I said earlier, I think the 2nd Gen Volt may be up to the task. But time will tell.

    2. Bloggin says:

      Exactly, compared to GM and Ford, Tesla is a tiny start up. At this point Tesla has not earned a dime selling vehicles, only selling CA EV Credits. And GM and Ford are loaded with billions in cash on hand.

      GM and Ford also have a massive dealer infrastructure in place to distribute their vehicles globally.

      But it’s great that Tesla is keeping the Detroit Big 2 (Chrysler is owned by Fiat) on their feet as it relates to EVs, which will be great for the plug-in vehicles overall. If it wasn’t for Tesla, GM and Ford would not be as EV focused as they are now.

      1. veselin says:

        “At this point Tesla has not earned a dime selling vehicles, only selling CA EV Credits”

        NOT TRUE!

        1. Dan Frederiksen says:

          Actually it is entirely true.

  10. scott moore says:

    Just as scared as Bill Gates was of IBM.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      I thought, in actuality, IBM was secretly funding MS. It basically came out in the open when IBM chose MS over CP/M as the operating system for the PC. Without IBM, I’m sure we’d say “Bill who?”.

      Hopefully Musk is not the tyrant either Gates is (I’ve heard him say with my own ears that he wants vaccines to cure the overpopulation problem in Africa), nor Steve Jobs (Jobs would have been a very minor player had he not been friends with Steve Wozniak); the current movie JOBS dramatizes what a creep he was.

      Since Elon Musk is the new JOBS, i.e., calling press conferences to release each new innovation or sometimes just announcing there will be a future press conference, ROB above has a point that the Tesla Roadster is not any innovation of Musk, but merely the end result of what he stole from Eberhardt in a hostile take-over.

      For now, people Idolize Musk as much as they have Jobs. Jobs of course, selling overpriced trendy products made from Chinese slave-labor, then when its discovered, he calls a press conference stating “These Knobs were made at a plant that doesn’t meet Apple Societal Standards!!!!”, and very publicly dumps the supplier. Of course, the supplier of something more critical to the product than knobs (which JOBS of course realized he could source anywhere) is definitely off the table for review.

      1. Dan Frederiksen says:

        You have forgotten OS2

  11. Alaa says:

    Maybe you mean that they will kill him?

  12. Nate says:

    Meanwhile, the story next on the list from this one is Toyota sees no market for pure electric vehicles.

    Some healthy competition between Tesla, GM and Nissan could be fun. Too bad Toyota doesn’t want to play.

  13. Bennyd says:

    If GM wants to compete with Tesla, please do. We will all benefit.

  14. Bret says:

    GM was more “asleep at the switch” than a sleeping giant and that’s why they went bankrupt and had to be bailed out. I respect the Volt, Spark and ELR and I think they are on the right track with their EV efforts. If the Envia batteries do materialize in production form, they could have a huge battery advantage for future EV models. In the mean time, they are years behind Tesla with their small format cells and are smart to realize they need to catch up. I also wouldn’t put it past GM to use the government to attack Tesla, similar to the way Tucker and DeLorean were put out of business.

  15. kdawg says:

    “As far as we know, Tesla has not assembled a GM task force and it likely never will.”
    ——————–

    IIRC, Tesla actually took advice from GM/Ford/Chrsyler on how to build cars in the beginning. They also stated it was a lot harder than they thought and had a lot of respect for Detroit.

  16. Tesla Fan says:

    LOL

  17. Aaron says:

    GM thinks the ELR is in the “same zip code” as Tesla. They are delusional. Elon is not scared. If anything, if a competitor appears, that will just be more motivation for Tesla (as if they need more).

  18. Ova-Nee says:

    Actually for anyone who has paid attention, Elon Musk is happy that GM is serious about competing in the EV space as that is what Musk has stated as his goal from the beginning. Asked why he got into the EV business he said:
    “The reason for me to do it is not because I saw a huge market opportunity. It was clear that we were not going to see electric cars from major car manufacturers.”

    Musk, who is also founder of SpaceX and Solar City, said that the company was necessary because the industry would need to build a sustainable mode of transport. That said, he felt that he was mostly alone in his plans to create an electric car at scale that other people would actually want to buy.

    “The industry was operating under two false premises,” Musk said. “One, that you could not create a compelling electric car. And two, that no one would buy it.”

    Now, Tesla has electric vehicles on the road and is trying to bring the price of the cars down. He expects that in three to four years, he’ll be able to create a car that is around $30,000 to $40,000. That’ll come as a result of a reduced size, as well as optimization in the design process and reaching economies of scale.

    But he wants more companies to get into electric cars, and to try to make it seem like more of a mainstream item for consumers. “Now that we’ve become profitable, we expect that other manufacturers will get into the electric car market,” Musk said.

  19. Martin T says:

    Agree I think GM are scared of Tesla – who has done much innovation.
    Do let me know when GM simplifies my Volt along with remote software upgrades – to match Tesla’s

    Then I will be impressed with GM’s team tesla……
    But some how without old Bob Lutz at GM, I have a fear accountants will once again rule GM to it detriment. Lets wait and see….