Why does this story about vacuum cleaner inventor James Dyson remind us of a famous automotive anecdote from just after World War II?
Dyson, who established the company that bears his name and vacuumed up quite a fortune, aims to bring three electric vehicles to market and may build them in China, according to the Financial Times.
The first EV is due by 2021. Two later models will be more conventional and are designed to sell in larger numbers, the paper said. These will use Dyson's solid-state battery technology that should be able to store more energy for a longer driving range and faster charging time than lithium ion batteries.
Dyson says he is investing $1.4 billion in battery development and as much again in car production. Now here's the old story, an apocryphal one. Henry Kaiser, who made a fortune building Liberty ships during World War II, wanted to become an automaker when the war ended. Joseph Frazer, his partner in the newly formed Kaiser-Frazer, threw a party to introduce Kaiser to his automotive peers. Kaiser, excited about becoming an auto magnate, blurted out that he was willing to invest $100 million. From the back of the room came a murmur, "Give the man one white chip."
We wish we had one white chip for every time that story has been repeated in Detroit in the last 70 years. Supposedly it was the chairman of General Motors who said it, but who knows.
What about Dyson's dive into autos?
Well, it's interesting that $100 million in 1946 equals about $1.4 billion today. So, to be fair, Dyson says he's prepared to commit to twice as much as old Henry Kaiser did to become an automaker.