To the Editor:
This is in response to Keith Crain's Aug. 19 column, "Don't bet against Elon Musk."
I'm not betting on or against Elon Musk. That's surely best done on Wall Street. What Musk has done -- PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla -- is nothing short of incredible. Innovation is what an entrepreneur is all about. And, I can tell you, innovation has always been the entry fee for an automobile manufacturer.
A lot of the talk about Tesla revolves around Musk's wanting to sell his vehicles directly to the public -- not about his innovative prowess. Moreover, Crain's column doesn't tell the whole story.
Training salespeople, making customer presentations, taking trade-ins, arranging financing, retrieving and repairing broken cars and conducting recalls are not at all innovative. And selling directly to the public is not a great, new idea -- remember GM Retail Holdings and the Ford Retail Network (later called Auto Collection)?
What is not the idea du jour is that the dealer network system works. It works really well. It is strong, it's efficient, it's responsive and it's incredibly competitive.
All the dealers I know wake each day trying to figure out a better way to satisfy their customers. There is no system better organized to deliver that experience than the franchised dealer system.
General Motors CEO Dan Akerson has apparently initiated a look at Tesla to learn, and that is right ("Tiny Tesla a threat to GM? Akerson takes no chances, assigns study team," autonews.com, July 22). It seems that Musk has decided not to look at a dealer system that works.
So maybe you don't bet against Elon Musk, but you might make a bet that Musk is going down the wrong road of distribution.
And that, Mr. Crain, is the whole story.
W. CARROLL SMITH