Skip to main content

tv   Lectures in History Post- World War II U.S. Auto Industry Mavericks  CSPAN  September 11, 2021 2:51am-3:46am EDT

2:51 am
industry. he discusses the successes and failures. today we're spanning e post-world war ii domestic scene. the last class we look at suburbanization, and today what i want the look at is cars in the post-world war ii era, and i especially want the look at the mavericks, maverick car designers and automakers, automakers who tried to establish independent companies
2:52 am
outside the big three who thought outside the box, thought unconventionally. i want to look at their impact, what happened to them, their influence on the field of the post-world war ii auto industry. and, you know, if america had a symbol in the post-world war ii era, it would have to be the automobile. i mean, americans love their cars. they're big. europeans even make fun of them. they call them yank tanks. and there's a reason that cars, american cars anyways are have the look and the shape and the size that they do. and a lot of it has to do with one automobile designer, one sort of maverick automobile designer, and i want to look at him today. and i want to start by sort of, in a nutshell is, looking at some of the reasons why cars were so important and how that was reflected in post-world war ii society and in the economy. so i've listed four basic reasons why cars, the demand for
2:53 am
cars surged and the impact that cars had in post-world war ii era. first of all, the idea of pent-up demand. you had the great depression, and we looked at that earlier in this course. and people had trouble buying necessities during the great depression, let alone cars, let alone luxury cars. and we saw a lot of automakers falling like ten pins at a bowling alley. you didn't have a lot of demand for cars in the 1930s. so you add to that during world war ii a lot of the factories had to convert to production of military vehicles; tanks, planes, trucks, jeeps. in fact, the jeep was really the only new vehicle produced during world war ii, and that was not a civilian vehicle. it was a military vehicle. so you had the great depression plus world war ii, you have, essentially, 15 years of pent-up
2:54 am
demand for automobiles. and whatever car you had at the start start of the war, you were stuck with it until the war ended. so i by the end of the war, americans were hungering for new vehicles. and it really wasn't fun to drive during world war ii either. there was a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit to conserve gasoline and to conserve rubber because japan, during world war ii, had captured 90% of the world's natural rubber making capacity when it invaded southeast asia. so there was a tremendous demand for new cars and exciting cars and fast cars after the war, a demand that had been suppressed for, when you add it up, about 15 years. so that was one factor that made cars very important after world war ii. another, we looked at suburbanization in the last class, and cars facile anticipated suburbanization, accelerated suburbanization.
2:55 am
you needed cars. if you didn't rely on public transportation, you needed cars to get from your home to your place of work in the city and then back to your bedroom communities to sleep at night. and then another trend you saw in the post-world war ii era is businesses started to crop up in suburbs. so suburbs became a place where you not only leved, with but also -- lived, but also worked. you saw all kinds of businesses cropping up in suburbs. franchises like mcdonald's, hotel-motel chains like hold lay inn started -- holiday inn started in memphis in 1952. drive-in theaters, the lure of drive-in theaters and cars loomed really large in the 1950s. so cars and suburbanization went hand in hand in the post-world war ii era. there was a real complementary relationship there. and then in 1952 the country elected a new president, dwight
2:56 am
d. eisenhower. he was a west point graduate, graduated in 1915, and then four years after he graduated, in 1919, he accompanied an army con soy that went from -- convoy that went from the west coast to the east coast. and that journey took 62 days. and it appalled eisenhower. he was really, in a lot of ways, disgusted by it. he saw army vehicles getting stuck in mud. that was the condition of roads back then, really crude, primitive pathways for vehicles to travel on. and he recognized that this was a real problem. it was a problem for the economy because it hampered economic development. when you have transportation networks that are that crude, it impedes the transportation, the movement of goods and services. he also as a military man recognized that represented a threat to national security. in case of an emergency, you
2:57 am
couldn't move military vehicles very easily along those kinds of roadways. is so i think that experience had a formative impact on him. it stuck in the back of his mind. and then during world war ii he was in europe, and in germany he saw the autobahn. he was very impressed like that. i think that led him to be a big advocate of better roads, and in 1956 he signed the interstate highway act which gave america really the most impressive roadway system in the whole world. so when you're traveling along, you sometimes see these blue signs that are silent tributes to the eisenhower interstate system, the five stars. and eisenhower was a fiscal
2:58 am
conservative, but -- he didn't like spending the government's money. he liked trying to achieve a balanced budget, and he achieved three, actually, while he was president. but he thought having a interstate system and the huge government spending that went along with it, it was the largest public works project in history. it went on for decades after, after the 1950s. but he thought this was important. it was important for economic stimulation, it provided jobs in terms of building the roads,es but it also facilitated the movement of goods and services north, south, east, west. it promoted tourism, americans could get to cities and park parks and recreational sites. but it also helped with national security. in the case of an emergency like a nuclear attack which was a threat in the 1950s, it could help evacuate cities quickly, and it could help move military vehicles quickly along the freeways. so this was a development in the
2:59 am
1950s that went hand in hand with the importance of automobiles. and then mt. last class -- in the last class i talked about how television changed the shape of homes by eliminating the need for porches. you could see the impact of cars also in home architecture. if you look at homes that were built in the post-world war ii era, based on what i've said in the last class as well as this class now, you can see that this is a pre-world war ii home. it's got a big porch which is a trademark of homes built before world war ii. and look at the garage. it's the separate from the house, and it's sort of rell gated to a -- rell gated to a sort of inferior position apart from the house. after world war ii, you see a change in that garages became attached to houses. and this was important in a
3:00 am
functional sense because you could move, for example, groceries from your garage to your mud room or to your kitchen without getting exposed to the elements, rain or snow. but in the metaphorical sense, it was also important because this sort of symbolized that the car was becoming a member of the family. it brought the car closer to the house. and often, like with this particular home, garages started to dominate the facade of homes. the garage, you know, you started getting one-car, two-car and even three-car garages, the garage was the first thing you saw when you pulled up to a house. it really was one of the defining elements of a house. and then again, it symboled welcoming the car as sort of a member of the family. i found these photos on the internet which sort of expresses how the lengths to which families will try to incorporate
3:01 am
garages into their house, build better and more elaborate garages with a rather modest car here, shall we say, with even a lift or an elevator to bring car up to house level. so you see the importance of cars in home ark architecture as well. so the shapes of homes changed because of the greater impact of cars in the post-world war ii era. and the shape of cars changed as well. and for this changed shape of cars, i would point to one individual who had a huge impact on the auto industry. and that was this guy. anybody recognize him? by any chance? this is harley earl. and he's the first maverick that i would like to look at. i consider him a maverick auto designer. he came to detroit from california in 1927, and he
3:02 am
became the head of general motors, what was called the art and color section. and it soon became called the styling section. so he was an automobile stylist. and general motors was the first car company to have a styling section. i actually want to go to b first here. this idea of styling. when the car first started to become popular with cars like the model t, you had a question of which was more important, function or form. and it was actually more important that a car function because reliability was a problem in early cars. i mean, it mattered that a car would start and that it would run. often cars in the early years did not do that reliably. so once engineers started to iron out the kinks in cars and get them to be more reliable, automakers started to look at something else and emphasize form. in other words, what would attract consumers to an auto showroom.
3:03 am
it was how cars looked. and even today one of the first things that might attract us to buy a vehicle might be the look of a car. whether it works or not, works well, engine and performance might even be second daughter. it's the appearance that first -- secondary. it's the appearance that first draws our eye. and harley earl was very big on this concept of the i appearance of a car. so in your mind's eye, try to picture an antique car like a model t. what does it look like to you? what are the defining characteristics or elements? i have a little picture of a older car to try to help you visualize this. this is a 1936 dudessen burg. it's a doozy, i talked to you about that in a different class. what i want to ask you about are some of the elements that you see in this car. what would you say about the
3:04 am
headlights and the horn9 and the bumper and the tires, the spare tire included, the fender and the running board and the windshield, the license plate? there might be very well a luggage rack bolted in back. what strikes you about those elements of a car? if i mean, how would you describe them? >> [inaudible] >> the headlights are a bit closer together than modern cars, and it doesn't look like they have mirrors. >> okay, yes. the mirror came about through auto racing. they first started putting mirrors in auto racing, and now we have mirrors on both sides. the headlights are are closer together, it's almost like it has narrow vision, and they're awfully big compared to today's headlights. what else do you notice about these elements that i just mentioned, the headlights and the bumpers and fender, and
3:05 am
we've got a up running board going here and a spare tire here, the windshield, how would you characterize those parts of this car or any antique car like it? what strikes you about that compared to your cars today? julianne? >> everything seems a lot bulkier and sticks out more than today's cars. >> exactly. they sort of extrude from the car. they protrude from the car. it's almost like they're boltedded on or fixed on at the last minute. it certainly isn't aerodynamic styling. and so harley earl set about to change the shape of these elements. and so if you look at a harley earl designed car, this is the buick that he designed, look at how he changed those elements
3:06 am
that we just talked about, that julianne mention if pld, that are sort of -- mentioned that are sort of external to the car. the bumper, the headlights are flush with the car. the radiator grill is left conspicuous. and the back of the car almost looks like a boat. but look at how those elements are blended in. i youngs a that posed these pictures -- juxtaposed these pictures so you could see is it. they don't extrude from a car. they don't seem as external, and it gives the car a more streamlined look. the bump per's more flush with the car, the wind shield is a little more slanted and gives it a more aerodynamic feel to the car. the fenders are flush with the car. the running board is gone. and legend has it that he literally raced it by looking -- erased it by looking at an old car, or he took the his pencil
3:07 am
and just erased it, and he thought to himself, that's it, i'm going to get rid of running boards. it totally changed the shape of cars. so this was one contribution of harley earl. notice also the length and the height of the car. harley earl lengthened and lowered cars, and this had an impact on passenger comfort. because it used to be in older cars that passengers in the rear seat sat right above the rear axel, and that was a very uncomfortable and bumpy position to be in. now earl lengthened and lowered cars, the passenger compartment sat cradled between the two axels, so it was a much more comfortable ride. but it also gave the whole car a more long and streamlines feel to it more aerodynamically styled. it's a much better looking car. this was a huge contribution to the way that cars looked that
3:08 am
harley earl achieved. you could really tell the difference between an antique car and the design that harley earl started to impose on cars. so there were other contributions. i've written here he introduced some gaudy changes as well that were less fortunate. he, for example, was enamored of jet fighters, the 1950s was the rocket age, the jet age. people were excited about jet engines, as was harley earl. he was particularly attracted by a lockheed fighter, the p-38, and he had the idea to try to introduce some features of jet fighters to cars. so this was a car he designed. it was a buick he saber. and if -- he saber. and if you look at the back, he started introducing tail fins to the car, and he started introducing tail fins to higher end cars first like cad a lack, and they spread to the -- cadillac. and they spread to buicks and oldsmobiles and other cars. this wasn't that good a change
3:09 am
because it didn't serve a real function. maybe in appearance a little bit. but it added weight to cars. and he added chrome to cars. it made cars more bulk key and heavier. -- bulky and heavier. and this caught up to cars during the 1970s when fuel efficiency became really important to automakers. and you can't have fuel efficiency when you have heavy cars. you want more, less fuel-thirsty cars, and with tail fins, you cannot achieve that. so this was a sort of ostentatious change that harley earl introduced. there was another important development that harley earl introduced too, this concept of dream cars. ed today we call them concept cars. if these were -- these were futuristic prototypes of automobiles that automakers would show at auto shows.
3:10 am
they'd use these auto shows as sort of a laboratory to gauge consumer reactions to future car prototypes whether this car was worth putting into production if consumers reacted favorably to them or introducing some element of a kind of car that consumers came to like. and so i'll give you a few examples of these dream cars. harley earl was the first to toy with this idea and introduce the idea of concept cars or dream cars, and this was a dream car, actually. the buick y job. i have a question for you. this is a 1936 deucen berg. based on this, what time frame or era do you think this buick y job came about? anybody want to take a tab at the year or the decade -- stab at the year or the decade that earl designed this? what kind of a car does this
3:11 am
look like, from what decade or era would you think? would you place it in? based on what you know and see about cars. mitch? >> 1950s. >> that's exactly what i would think, it looks like the archetype of a 1950 decade car. but believe it or not, this is a 1938 car. so this'll give you an idea of how with these dream cars or concept cars you take a peek into the future. you anticipate trends; trends in design is, styling. and so this is what you do. with these dream cars you set a forerunner to what cars will look like in the future, and that's very important for automakers, to address these future trends and get a taste for what consumers will like to see in their cars in the future. i showed you the buick lesabre which was also a dream car, and
3:12 am
here's another example of a dream car. anybody recognize this? so the idea of automobile styling spread from general motors to other automakers. and, in fact, a lot of harley earl-trained stylists started to work for other automakers. this was a ford car. it's from the lincoln division of ford. it was actually designed by an italian company, gia, and the particular stylist who came up with this concept, a guy named phil schmidt, got the idea when he was diving. snorkeling or scuba diving. does this look like any underwater animal to you? a shark maybe? he got the idea for this car from seeing a shark when he was diving underwater. does this car look forward to anybody? like from a 1960 tv series? the automobile stylist george
3:13 am
barras got ahold of this car, and in the 1960s, abc-tv approached him about designing a car for their new tv series. he only had two or three weeks to do this, but he took this car out of storage and created the batmobile. he used the car as a template for the batmobile car. so this'll give you another idea of how concept cars which harley earl really pioneered were used by automobile makers and automobile stylists. so those were some of harley earl's contributions. he really, he was a maverick stylist who pushed the envelope of automobile style to influence the way cars look even up til today. i want to look at another maverick, and this is a -- does anybody recognize this guy? thisthis is preston tucker, andi
3:14 am
would consider him a maverick automaker. so who was he? he was an inventer and a tinkerer, and he loved automobiles. he had a work shop, a machine shop in ipsilanti, michigan, which is outside of detroit, and he was enam mored of speed. -- enamored of speed. he loved speedy cars. and, in fact if, as an inventer who loved speedy cars, this is one of his inventions, he designed a tank that would go 117 miles per hour. he tried to interest the u.s. army in it. they didn't find a use for a tank that would go that fast. but he anticipated that in the post-world war ii era americans would hunger for new cars, new cars that would be fast, that would offer innovations. and so in december 1945 a magazine that's no longer around had a feeture on a car that -- feature on a car that he
3:15 am
promised to put into production. thousands of americans wrote in letters expressing interest in buying this car. and the reason was that he a offered all kinds of innovations in this new car. so these were innovations such as -- this is preston tucker with a picture of the tucker torpedo, what it would look like, what he envisioned. it would blend spacing and engineering and performance and luxury. it would have, for example, safety features like a third eye, a cyclops eye that would turn with your steering wheel so that you could see better when you were going around curves. it would have a popout windshield so that the passengers wouldn't get cut by shards of glass that would shatter in an accident. this would have an uncrushable passenger department. it would have independent suspension, go more than 100 miles per hour, more than 100 horsepower which was pretty rare
3:16 am
for those times. it would have a rear-mounted engine which would allow you more room for luggage in the front of the vehicle. and so he advertised this like this. the first completely new car in 50 years. and he put it into production as the tucker 48, not tucker torpedo. and here's how he would advertise the it, as a car with new engineering features, new safety features. and yet luxury at a medium price. so it seemed to answer the hunger, this pent-up demand that i talked about that americans had for a completely new vehicle that would offer all these innovations that would excite consumers. and he was able to put it in production but not mass production. produced 51 vehicles. he had an unveiling that was met with much media fanfare. and these are workers producing the tucker car by hand, and he was able to produce 51 of them
3:17 am
by hand. but, oh, and he tirelessly promoted the car. he was quite a salesman if, very energetic. he was also a very. dapper dresser, as you can see and the car came in attractive colors, an array of attractive colors. and the production vehicle had a lot of the features that the tucker torpedo promised; independent suspension, a uncrushable passenger compartment, that third cyclops eye. it was fast, it would go 120 miles per hour with good fuel efficiency too. it had a rear engine. but he was only able to produce 51. why? well, fast forward to 1988 when a film came out, tucker: the man and his dream. anybody recognize these two?
3:18 am
this is francis ford coppola, the film director, and this guy, anybody recognize? any of you "star wars" fans? george lucas. francis ford coppola owned a tucker, and he got really interested in the story of preston tucker. and so he directed and george lucas was the executive producer for this film. and here's francis ford coppola, his tucker on display at his california winery. and so this was the film with jeff bridges in the time role as preston tucker. it's a great film to watch partly because of jeff bridges' performance. he's just all excited about his car, and it takes you through the story of his developing this car, first having the concept for the car and then trying to put it in production. he emulates some of the original
3:19 am
poses of preston tucker. they had replica cars made for this film. and he promoted, he promotes the car the same way preston tucker did. but the film tries to explain the demise of preston tucker, why he was only able to do 51 of these cars by hand. and, eddie, you said you you wee able to watch the film. what did the film intimate about the reason why preston tucker was only able to produce 51 of these cars and had to stop? what was the message behind the film? >> at the time, all these innovations, the other big three car companies were intimidated by him, so they ended up suing him. so, they kind of just, like, took him down and barely -- he had to make 51 cars and then he
3:20 am
ended up doing that, but he still kind of, like, failed in the edge. >> yeah. he did fail in the end. that's a really good summation of what the film tries to present. in other words, the way the film goes, it mays very heavily on on the conspiracy theory concept, that the big three automakers, general motors, ford and chrysler, felt threatened by this new, innovative car and, essentially, they kneecapped the guy. they conspired to crush preston tucker and drive him out of business. so that's the hollywood story. and i've written here, really? it's a good hollywood story, but it's not good history. when it came right down to it, tucker occupied this dying thin sliver of the auto market, if that. i mean, 51 cars, come on. that's not, that's not a threat to your competition if you're one of the big three automakers. so i've asked here a what really
3:21 am
doomed preston tucker to failure. it's the nature of the enterprise that he was trying to get into. auto making. when with i talked about henry ford and mass production early in the course, i talked about how mass production just raised the stakes for anybody in the automobile business. to mass produce if cars, you have to have huge amounts of money and capital and financial resources. it involves huge factories and supply chains sometimes spread out all over the country or all over the world. it's a very complicated business. but above all, it requires money. fundraising. and this is something preston tucker or any if maverick trying to enter the automobile business, this is something that they lack. they have real trouble raising money to enter the automaking business. and so preston tucker always struggled with fund raising. and he tried some unconventional
3:22 am
schemes to try to raise money. for example, he sold -- well, one of his mistakes was just renting such a big factory. he rented a former dodge aircraft plant if in chicago that covered 93 acres. of it was way too big a factory for his needs, much too expensive for him to afford x. then to try to raise money, some of these unusual schemes that he engaged in were selling accessories to the tucker car before the car was even available. so he was selling to dealerships radios and seat covers and luggage. these ideas, these methods attracted the attention of the securities and exchange commission. and eventually, a grand jury indicted tucker on charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the public, and there was a trial. and the jury reached its verdict, not guilty.
3:23 am
so what do we conclude about preston tucker? he was not a fraud or a swindler. i mean, he did have a genuinely innovative car that in many ways was decades before its time. he was a champion of seat belts long before seat belt innovative car that in many ways was a decades before its time. he was a champion of seat belts long before seat belts became a standard in the industry. and other things, other featured that i mentioned, the independent suspension and other attractive options for a car. so hee did have a good idea, he had a lot of energy and he honestly tried to set about to build a new car to introduce to consumers and to the industry, but his effort floundered on the rocks of finances. he couldn't raise the kind of money to go into mass production. he might, as i've written here, have gotten his vindication in
3:24 am
at least a couple t ways. despite the failure of his company, i mean, his dream died with the kindan of financial/lel problems that he got into, despite the failure off his company, though, he did have plans to build a a new car and died, iunfortunately, of lung cancerbr before he was ever abl to h construct a factory in bral he wanted to do this, but this car that he was planning to build looksan a lot like a car that eventually did go into mass production. anybody recognize this car or seen it on the roads? this is a plymouth prowler. it i went into mass production the 1990s. so he got vindication in that way in terms of the styling of this plannedte car, but that fi "if you canner, the man and his dream" reallyy elevated interes in the tucker automobile and the tucker story such that tuckers today are extremely val will you believe, i mean, a well-conditioned tucker will sell at auction for more than a million dollars. i mean, you're looking right
3:25 am
here at millions of dollars worth ofis car. to give r you an idea, it's bee featured on jay leno's garage. this tucker was resting in a barn, i think, in ohio or in washington state and it went ton auction. it couldn't run, i mean, it was missing parts, the i engine didt work, but even in the kind of condition it was in it sold at $800,000.or almost i mean, imagine that. you have this old$8 car that doesn't even work sitting in yourur barn and it's worth almo $800,000. i mean, that speaks to how valuable tuckers have become today because of the interest that the h hollywood film generated. respect, too, tucker got his vindication. so he was a maverick automaker that tried to break into the auto manufacturing anbusiness. i want to look at another maverick automaker, this guy. anybody recognize him? i didn't think you would
3:26 am
recognizest him, but i bet all you or almosten all of you know his name. he worked for general motors and he was sort of a boy wonder in the early 1960s for general motors because he was hitting cars out of the ballpark really in a lot of ways because he was achieving success after success. for example, he was one of the champions of the pontiac gto, muscle car. and this is him accepting a motorf trend award for the pontiac cgto. and this was another one of his cars that he championed later in theto 1960s, the pontiac firebi. so these were very successful automobiles. he was really onn the fast trac at general motors. people thought that he was being groomedd eventually to be ceo o general motors, but he felt
3:27 am
straight-jacketed at general motors. he didn't like a the corporate culture there. he thought it was very restrictiveid and conservative. he was sort of a partier, he didn't like dressing in suits, he wore his hair a little longer, hee dated models and he felt that the restrictive, conservative g buttoned up culte at general motors was reflected in the automobile styling of general motors cars whichch he thought was stodgy. so he quit general motors in 1973 and when he quit he said that general motors just isn't making the kind of cars that from the s.public, and he vowed i'm going to teach general motors how to build automobiles. and so he got into a project to design a new car that he named after himself and this is what thehe car looked like. do you know his name now? he named it after himself.
3:28 am
it was a a -- car. do you recognize this car at all? the dmc? what does dmc stand for? eddie? >> this is john delorean, the delorean motor company. so it had many innovative features just t like preston tucker did with his car, you can see the wing doors and stainless steel body that wouldn't rust. he, unlike tucker, actually got financial backingov for the car. he entered into a partnership with the british government because it's to a government's advantage to a try to back car makers because car making provides ijobs. soar he had a plant built in belfast, northern ireland, and the car went into mass production, unlike with tucker, and he was able to build 9,000 of these cars. very much like tucker, he was a tireless champion and promoter ofee his own automobile.
3:29 am
so you can see him trying to advertise his car and standing behind it, on top of it and it was a good-looking car. it was sleek, it offered fairly goodd performance, although thee were some reliability problems withbl it, but what happened to himm and his car? he was able to produce 9,000 of them, as i mentioned, but after just about a year he had to shut down hish factories and stop producing. what happened?he well, finances n caught up with himnt also. consumer tastes also. he was offering just one particular vehicle, not an array of different vehicles, just like tucker, just one -- one vehicle, not different models. so to add insult to injury, right after his car factory shut down he was arrested for cocaine trafficking and the charge against him was that he was trying to sell cocaine to raise
3:30 am
money to his automobile company. just like with tucker, there was a trialr. and the jury reached verdict, not guilty. just like with tucker. but his dream was finished and financial t and legal problems associated with this delorean car dogged him for the rest of his life. in fact,, he had to declare bankruptcy in 1999. but in a lot of ways hollywood, just like with tucker, might have saved him also because in 1985 we have the "back to the future" film appearing, which inextricably linked theay delorn with the timewn machine. in fact, if you've seen the movie there is a line in the movie where marty mcfly said to doc brown do you mean to tell me you built s a time machine in a delorean. doc brown said if you're going
3:31 am
to put a time machine in a car you might as well do it with some style.re the interest in deloreans increased and the car became aw collectors item. in that respect delorean might have had they last laugh as wel and mighted have been saved by hollywood in thech same way tha preston tucker was. what's thehe take away lesson fm what we've studied so far? what doesy history teach us abot the maverick auto makers? they don'ts have a good track record of success. in mafact, they fail and they fl they're trying to enter a business, auto manufacturing, that has such high capital and moneyyo costs, financial costs. you're subject to fickle consumer tastes often. you have problems, as i said, with supply chains and dealerships ander all the complexities of automobile manufacturing and sales. it's a very difficult business to get into. and so these maverick auto
3:32 am
makers tend to be broken on the wheel, so to speak, of the very difficulto nature of the enterprise that they're trying to get into. so this brings us to one last maverick, this guy. who is thise] guy? you surely recognize him. who is he? ryan? >> elon b musk. >> okay. good. elon news i can. so he's trying to break into the automobile business as the co-founder and ceo of tesla, and as we've gone over, history tells us that his prospects are not good. he, like preston tucker and john delorean is w tirelessly promotg hisg vehicles and we see echos f the delorean even in the gul wing doors of some res la models and he has the model s and the model x m and he plans the mode 3, which will be sold at $35,000
3:33 am
which might bring the tesla into theer mainstream. just last night tesla unveiled its now semi-trailer, truck, that will be electric powered. so this t might be a game chang as twell. but in the end, let's face it, tesla is laboring in the shadow of a failure. history does tell us that automobile makers, these maverick independent automobile makers who try to get into the business fail.. yet tesla has been around for several years right mnow. i mean, tesla has made more cars than preston tucker and john delorean combined. last year they made around 80,000 atcars, that's way more than delorean and tucker put together. g elon musk has ambitious plans to ramp up mass production of cars to 200,000. it's still very small compared to, say, general motors. last year general motors produced 10 million cars worldwide. so, again, 200,000 is just a
3:34 am
sliver, aan fingernail sliver compared to the production of the big three, but how can we explainua the fact that elon mu in contrast to these other mavericks is actually getting a foot hold - or maybe a toe holdn the autoou making industry? i would ask you guys to think about this question.to what are some of your suppositions about why elon musk seems to beut -- seems to be dog okayay so far with the promise doing better in the future? do you have any ideas about this? what is he doing differently or what's different about his background? alexis? >> well,r, he was a businessman andot had a couple of really go business deals before tesla and as well as that like he's an inventor, he also puts a lot of money toward tesla that he already hadhe from previous business andoi he wants to be involved with things besides cars as well. >> okay. yes. so he has spacex going and he was wealthy from the start.
3:35 am
john delorean and preston tucker were notna wealthy. elon musk is a billionaire with a b. anybody know how he made his money. >> he had a company with his brother when he was 16 and when he sold it, after that it was or history. >> paypal. >> yeah. >> i nmean, he is a computer whiz. he is a a real immigrant succes story, too, born in south africa, moved to canada and then the u.s.ry it's a marvelous story for an immigrant to make it this big in this t country with spacex, payl and spacex and also tesla. andd tesla is making, slowly, inroads yinto, as i said, the automobile manufacturing business which is a very difficult business inherently tn make inroads into. so it's very impressive. so you start a out with the ceo who has o his own financial backing and that he's a billionaire and this marks a contrast from some of the other mavericks that we looked at. so that's one plausible reason
3:36 am
why tesla seems to be -- seems to be holding its own so far. what are some other reasons? tesla's stock is doing very well. t what are some other possible reasons to explain why tesla has not gone the way of tucker and delorean? y at least not yet.so you start o well. reasons to explain why tesla has not gone the way of tucker and what are some other possible reasons to explain why tesla has not gone the way of tucker and delorean? at least not yet. any other ideas? what about the nature of the car? what powers die r tesla? gasoline, diesel? ryan? >> it's an electric car so that just makes it much different and in a way more appealing to consumers with a taste for the future who want something different and not just like gasoline vehicles for the last century plus that have been what we've been using. >> yeah. yeah. excellent. i mean, elon musk and tesla have entered aep market where essentiallyn there's almost a blank slate. the other automobile makers are
3:37 am
still dependent on internal combustion engines and for people in the u.s. and worldwide who are more conscious aboutea e environmental impact of automobiles, the electric car is appealing. i mean, it promises perhaps the end of the internal combustion engine and with that less environmental impact, p less of carbonon footprint, less smog a smoke and pollution, less global warming, perhaps. so there's a reason to buy the tesla as opposed to other cars that consumers might feel attracted to. so there's that. the very nature of what fuels tesla cars ass opposed to other automobiles attractsat a segmen of the population and it's probably a growing segment of the population. what reelse? how else can we explain this? s this is sort of a historical quandary, a dilemma that we're facing.
3:38 am
elon musk and tesla are sort of breaking the mold of mavericks.s eddie? >> they molded the car after technology, like autonomous driving now is like their main selling point into yeah. yeah. technology is a big factor. this is a very advanced car, for that reason it's very expensive the s and x models but the model 3 could possibly be a game changer, it might bring tesla into thell midrange market, the more mainstream market, it may very well be that ten years from now somet' of us may own tesla automobiles. i bet none of us right now own a tesla, yeah,st it's a little ou of our price range, but a decade from now if tesla is still around we might be looking at more and more people just like henryer ford brought the model within range of average consumers, we might be looking at a vehicle that the mainstream consumer buys. g andd the technology we're all enamored of technology. the technology might be
3:39 am
conducive to driverless automobiles, that's what elon musk and tesla have in mind wity that tractor-trailer that they introduced yesterday tevening, o have these autonomous vehicles on the duroad. they want to start with that over long stretches andls that might really change the trucking industry. so, yeah, it appeals to our love of o technology and perhaps driverless cars in the future. it alsois appeals to our love o technology in another way. have any of you seen advertisements on television for tesla? you know, in the 1950s the car age that i was talking about earlier in the class, nine out of every ten ads on television was for automobiles. there's still a lot of car ads on tv, maybe not that kind of fraction, but t you don't see teslaa advertising. so how do they advertise? they try to lure consumers into their showroom, but there's also what today to advertise? alexa? >> social media. >> exactly. yeah. you have social media. so you have differenteh ways of
3:40 am
disseminating news about a p ca the attractiveness of a vehicle with social media. preston tucker and john delorean and other maverick auto makers before elon musk did not avail themselves of, could not avail themselves of. thosee are all important factor. those are all great answers and great suppositions. anything else that may explain this, the rise and continued endurance of t tesla? >> i thinkin if i'm not mistake they don't't have dealerships, they just have stores and you can go in there and try them, sit in the cars and you can buy them from there. direct there is a appeal to consumers also with tesla. especially because you have an inherent attraction of this car to a particular segment of auto buyers who are very loyal to this idea of green cars, energy-efficient cars.
3:41 am
does the government play a role? i mentioned that john delorean entered a partnership with the british government and the british government gave him some financial backing and that enabled him to mass produce cars,rn unlike preston tucker. for energy efficiency you get some government subsidies to build the batteries. that helps also when your production is subsidized by the government, that gives you tax breaks andea subsidies. so that lowers your overhead and your costs as well. plus, you know, a lot of it is a good product and cbs satisfaction with tesla and their liability rates pretty high, and ultimately it's how good and how reliable a car you have, and that will satisfy consumers and keep them coming back ford more and keep them loyalha to your brand and that' important also too instill that kind of brand loyalty in whatever you're trying to sell.
3:42 am
any other possible i guesses? i think we've covered most of them. history
3:43 am
3:44 am
3:45 am
of the u.s. auto industry and argues against driverless cars. the smithsonian associates hosted this event in 2019. >> tonight we are joined by historian and automotive journalist dan albert. dan has spent a career writing and teaching about the history and culture of technology. his articles can be found in n plus one magazine, popular science and the journal for the history of behavioral sciences. he holds a ph.d. in history from the university of michigan where he also taught in the college of engineering. dan also sve

15 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on