Back in the day, when men were men and cars were cars (or something like that), two carmakers were at the top of their game in the automotive industry.
The first, Henry Ford, needs no introduction, Alfred Sloane, however, does.
Ford would lay the groundwork for the way that we produce cars now, by pioneering the effective moving assembly line and the idea of mass-market transport with the Model T.
Sloane is the man behind the modern corporation in General Motors (GM). At its peak, in the 1950s, GM controlled half of the US car market.
Ford was a utopian with big ideas about making his cars accessible to all. Sloane was a pragmatist who would engineer the blueprint for American managerial capitalism.
So how does this tie into Musk’s new nemesis? Well, history appears to be repeating itself.
The two biggest names in the world of electric cars are Elon Musk, who also needs no introduction, and a little known rival, RJ Scaringe, who leads Rivian, a startup electric SUV and pickup-truck maker.
In this scenario, Musk is Ford and Scaringe is Sloane.
Over to Forbes, who has dubbed Scaringe Elon’s “new nemesis”:
With black hair and black glasses, Scaringe is sometimes compared to Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent. But Scaringe has long been fascinated with the car industry, from when, as a boy growing up in Florida, he helped a neighbor rebuild Porsches to later working at MIT’s Sloan Automotive lab while earning a master’s and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.
Now with $1 billion in backing from Ford and Amazon, he’s ready to take on that other genius electric-car-making executive sometimes compared to a comic book hero (or villain)—Elon Musk.
Musk, a visionary, is more concerned with the manufacturing process than growing an automotive-empire. Scaringe, on the other hand, has his sights set on building a legacy.
Both are working on electric trucks.
Even amid curvaceous new BMWs and Audis, it was Scaringe and his startup electric-car maker, Rivian, that grabbed the most attention at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. In a theatrical nighttime unveiling at L.A.’s Griffith Observatory, CEO and founder Scaringe debuted his gleaming silver creation, 10 years in the making.
The R1T electric pickup truck boasts more battery range than anything from Tesla, yet it’s fast enough to keep up with the zippiest sports cars (it goes from zero to 60 mph in three seconds).
The big unveiling of the Tesla Cybertruck didn’t go quite as planned, but the overall design definitely had more of an experimental supervillain-esque feel about it.
We’re dealing with two very different people here:
Despite its eccentric CEO, Tesla has been at the top of its game this year, with stock prices on the rise and a new battery that’s putting it head and shoulders above its competitors.
Investments and partnerships have amassed a $3 billion war chest for Rivian which will be used to propel the company into the future, setting it up as an alternative to Tesla in the electric truck market.
The question is: Even with $3 billion, does Rivian have enough to realize Scaringe’s electric dreams?
Until now, it’s been a far smoother road than the one Elon Musk faced with his first vehicle. Tesla raised around $100 million between 2003 and 2008 to produce the Roadster, which was soon abandoned in favor of the Model S, and the Model S required more than $350 million in funding (including a 2010 IPO that valued the company at $1.7 billion).
So if the mighty Tesla had to brave a rocky terrain, why would Rivian be any different?
Scaringe doesn’t think it will, but he’s ready to face whatever challenges lie ahead.
Meanwhile, Musk doesn’t seem too worried.
He’s building a legacy whether he’s trying to or not.
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