So, which outsider is going to disrupt the auto industry? Tesla? Apple? Google? Uber?
A senior Nissan executive said Friday that Uber will force traditional competitors to reinvent themselves or die -- even as he discounted efforts by Apple, Google and Tesla to do the same.
“Lot’s of people are calling Tesla a disrupter. They are not,” said John Martin, Nissan North America’s senior vice president of manufacturing and supply chain management.
During a panel discussion at the Rainbow/PUSH conference in Detroit, Martin argued that Tesla does something that is relatively easy: Produce a high-performance car for more than $100,000. A more difficult task would be to produce a good electric car for less than $30,000.
“People ask me: ‘When are you going to compete with Tesla?’ And I ask them, ‘When is Tesla going to compete against me?’”
Martin says he’ll sit up and pay attention when Tesla introduces an EV priced like the Nissan Leaf. But what about Google and Apple?
It would be very costly for either to become a carmaker, Martin says. That’s because neither company could count on an advantage in manufacturing costs. “We’re already ahead of the curve with robotics and intelligent machines,” Martin said. “We already do that.”
Moreover, if Apple or Google enter the car-making business, they could expect a profit margin of 10 percent or so -- a sorry contrast to their current product lines, which boast profit margins of 30 to 40 percent.
Uber is a different story. For a service provider, the cost of launching a business is much lower than for a car manufacturer. So Uber presents a very real threat to traditional taxi companies, which will have to reinvent themselves in order to survive.
Auto executives, by contrast, will spend most of their energy fighting each other -- not Tesla, Apple or Google.