Ford made headlines this weekend when it unveiled the Ford Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric crossover SUV. The Mach-E is the beginning of a new EV strategy that will compete directly with Tesla's upcoming Model-Y, a new SUV that is scheduled to begin production next summer.
Elon Musk quickly took to Twitter to respond to Ford's announcement. Did he chide his competitor for taking so long to develop its electric vehicle technology? Did he take a shot at Ford for its interior, which features a large center display screen that looks much like the one featured in most Tesla models?
Quite the opposite. Here's Musk's tweet:
Congratulations on the Mach E! Sustainable/electric cars are the future!! Excited to see this announcement from Ford, as it will encourage other carmakers to go electric too.-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2019
Ford replied quickly with a tweet of its own:
Thanks, Elon. We couldn't agree more. See you at the charging station!-- Ford Motor Company (@Ford) November 18, 2019
If you're surprised by Musk's response to Ford, you shouldn't be. For years, the famous CEO has insisted he's not competing with larger automakers. Rather, he's trying to spur them on.
Musk reiterated this point in a remarkable blog post way back in 2014. It was then that Musk announced that Tesla would, "in the spirit of the open source movement...not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology."
Musk went on to explain that Tesla initially pursued patents out of concern that larger car companies like Ford would copy its technology and then use their massive resources to overwhelm Tesla. But Musk soon realized that the opposite had become reality: At the time, EV programs at the major automakers were "small to non-existent."
"Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately two billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis," Musk continued. "By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world's factories every day."
Fast forward to today. Musk's plan seems to have worked: Several major auto manufacturers have announced plans to release electric vehicles in the upcoming years. In the meantime, Tesla's position as market leader has only strengthened. And despite some serious turnover in its senior employee ranks, Tesla still has a reputation for attracting some of the world's best and brightest engineers. (That might have something to do with its CEO's hiring philosophy.)
Considering all this, it seems we can take Musk's tweet at face value: genuine encouragement for a challenger making strides in a market that's long overdue for more competition.
In other words, now the real fun starts.
Let the games begin.