What does Silicon Valley, California have in common with Leipzig, Germany? They are both home to the most innovative, technically advanced, and possibly the most significant cars of the 21st century. The Tesla Model S and the BMW i3 are the cars that have defied experts who said they couldn't be built. While the key innovations for each of these cars are different, the innovative spirit is the same.
With the Model S, Tesla created a breakout electric car out of mostly existing technology. What Tesla did better than other new entrant was put it together, what Silicon Valley calls ‘systems integration,’ into a remarkable package. With obsessive attention to detail and high standards for performance and styling, Elon Musk has emerged as the Steve Jobs of the auto industry and proven countless naysayers wrong.
With the i3, BMW created an affordable car out of an innovative material, carbon fiber, or technically speaking, ‘carbon fiber reinforced plastic.’ BMW has found a way to apply its manufacturing know-how to bring what was once an exotic material for supercars and fighter jets to an everyday car. Driven to not make just a ‘me too’ electric car, Ulrich Kranz, the father of the i3, has created a breakthrough car that, like the Model S, is receiving enthusiastic reviews from auto critics for its performance.
In the 20th century, the automobile shaped the world. In the 21st century, the world will shape the automobile. Today’s cars are a major source of urban air pollution, global warming emissions, and oil dependency.
Fortunately, there are those in the auto industry – like Mr. Musk and Dr. Kranz – who understand it doesn’t have to be this way. Technology innovation combined with visionary leadership can reinvent the automobile. Tesla’s Model S and BMW’s i3 prove that being more in balance with today’s global realities does not mean sacrificing what makes the auto industry great.