No one is bringing good, solid design into an environmentally friendly vehicle,” says Franz von Holzhausen. “We either get strange, quirky vehicles that the general public isn’t ready for, or we get iterations of the Prius. Nobody would buy a Prius if it were a normally powered car. My opportunity is to create a brand that revolves not only around clean, environmental stories, but also around awesome design. We are past the idea of an environmentally friendly vehicle needing to look different. As the idea becomes more mainstream, the quirkiness of the product will go away. People won’t want to sacrifice anything, including style, to own an efficient car.
“There’s a sameness and a staleness about cars in general. We are not seeing any new design statements, and the consumers’ impression of the American car industry is that there’s nothing new coming. This is Tesla’s opportunity to be an Apple product in a PC world. Design is the last frontier that separates the brands from each other. Everyone is chasing the same kind of technology and greenness, but ultimately design is what compels people to buy a Honda or a Toyota or a Ford. I want people who buy a Tesla to have their friends say, ‘That’s a beautiful car. Oh, and it’s environmentally friendly? That’s awesome!’
“Tesla is a Silicon Valley company with a different mind-set, looking to bring that sensibility to the automotive environment. The intent is to enrich lives. We want to bring not only a design that is unique and attractive, but also a technology that is unique and attractive as well. Tesla will create products that function better than anything in the price range. They will have more space, be more user-interactive, and be more modern and up-to-date in terms of technology and human interface. You won’t get in your car and say, ‘Gosh, my cell phone packs more computing power than my entire car, and it costs one-hundredth the price.’
“It helps that we’re looking at the auto industry a bit from the outside, without the legacy or baggage of how things are supposed to be done. I don’t have this big museum of space, a.k.a. a design center. I’m creating a car with very few people but building an efficient team based on the principle of good design. The entire company has 280 employees, which means the decision-making process is lean, mean, and go-fast.
“Tesla has been going at this for a little while, with some impressive brainpower. The connections we have with battery companies are really strong and growing. Our engineers have figured out how to make this whole thing work. We are focused on changing the paradigm through technology, new thinking, and re-architecting vehicles that are attractive, efficient, and practical. That’s what the founders of Tesla are working hard to do.”