No one does the vision thing better than Elon Musk. But he is even a visionary about vision. His grand visions inspire consumers and employees. But he also knows that visions need grounding in credibility. Overly grand ambitions generate skepticism and backlash. So Tesla has smartly scaled its vision over time, as its accomplishments have grown.
Let’s take a look at what they’ve done.
First, let’s go back to 2008, when Tesla had newly launched its first product. Here’s the “About Tesla” excerpt from a 2008 press release:
9/2008 About Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors develops and manufactures electric vehicles with exceptional design, performance and efficiency, while conforming to all U.S. safety, environmental and durability standards. The Tesla Roadster is the only highway capable production electric car of any kind for sale in the United States.
With a 0 to 60 mph acceleration of 3.9 seconds, a 13,000 rpm redline, and the fastest top gear acceleration of any production car tested by Car & Driver magazine in 2007, the Tesla Roadster is unique in providing super car performance, zero emissions and extraordinary efficiency. For more information, visit http://www.teslamotors.com
Tesla’s self-description in 2008 was about making a great electric vehicle. Tesla was a recently-launched one-niche-product company, and their vision spoke directly to being great at that.
Now let’s fast forward ahead a couple years to 2010. Here’s another “About Tesla” press release excerpt:
5/2010 About Tesla Motors
Tesla is the only automaker selling highway-capable electric vehicles –the only company whose cars equally emphasize design, performance and efficiency. With a relentless focus on customer service, Tesla sells cars directly to clients, both online and at 10 showrooms in Europe and North America. Tesla has already delivered cars in at least 25 countries and is considered the must-have car among Hollywood celebrities, European royalty and trendsetters worldwide. Advertising Age magazine recently named Tesla one of the year’s “hottest brands.”
Now the vision is still about being a great electric vehicle company, but having delivered it’s first product, the vision is expanded to multiple products. At the same time, Tesla also started talking about going from niche-segment to mainstream segments, as reflected in this “About Tesla” press release excerpt:
5/2010 About Tesla Motors
Tesla’s goal is to produce increasingly affordable cars to mainstream buyers – relentlessly driving down the cost of EVs. Palo Alto, CA based Tesla sells cars online and has delivered over 1000 Roadsters to customers in North America, Europe and Asia. Tesla has showrooms in California’s Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Boulder, South Florida, Chicago, London, Munich and Monaco. The Tesla Roadster is faster than many sports cars yet more efficient than a hybrid.
By 2012, as the Model S is being launched, the tone changes once again. Now it’s no longer about Tesla being a great electric vehicle company or a mainstream electric vehicle company, it’s about Tesla changing the whole landscape of the vehicle industry. It’s a much grander vision, from a company that has now made significant accomplishments. Look at the “About Tesla” press release excerpt in 2012:
6/2012 About Tesla Motors
Tesla’s goal is to accelerate the world’s transition to electric mobility with a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla designs and manufactures EVs and EV powertrain components. Tesla has delivered more than 1,800 Roadsters, the world’s first electric sports car, to customers worldwide. Model S, the first premium sedan to be built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, goes on the market in mid-2012.www.teslamotors.com
In the 2012 blurb, Tesla used the term “accelerate the world’s transition,” reflecting the idea that it was leading a movement. In 2014, Tesla eliminated the “About Tesla” blurb from its press releases, but an investor presentation still carried the same vision.
1/2014 (investor presentation):
“Our goal when we created Tesla a decade ago was the same as it is today: to drive the world’s transition to electric mobility by bringing a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars to market.”
However, by 2015, the vision evolved again, to go beyond “electric mobility” to “sustainable transport.” With the Roadster and Model S out the door, a network of charging stations, the vision needed to expand. Here’s a statement from their annual SEC 10-k in 2015.
our mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport
That’s pretty bold. Tesla was not saying anything like that in 2008 or 2010 or 2012. It would have strained credibility. In 2015, however, based on Tesla’s accomplishments, this bold statement sounds, well, achievable. But the story isn’t over. Take a look at this statement on the current website:
6/2016 teslamotors.com accessed 6/2016
Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy
Now we are really talking bold. No more discussion about electric vehicles and sustainable transport. All energy is within their sites. The horizon expands. Tesla scales its vision as its accomplishments grow, to inspire its audience, with well-earned credibility.