Elon Musk Is Time Magazine's Most Influential Man in the Car Business

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Photo: Oninnovation via Flickr
In a move that will surprise no one, The Drive, a division of Time magazine, has named Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk the most influential person in the car business. But, really, have a look around: who were the rest of the contenders? Volkswagen's Winterkorn? FCA's Marchionne (he actually comes in third)? The only person who still inspires respect is Daimler's Dieter Zetsche, but the Stuttgart brand hasn't rocked the boat in any way, despite a plethora of new models.
If you spend too much time reading stuff about Tesla, then you're probably convinced that the future is electric. Most of the automotive industry, however, still hopes it's not. But after what happened with the Model 3 unveiling, a switch in their strategy is beginning to become apparent. Traditional carmakers aren't giving up on the internal combustion engine, but they're giving the electric variant a much more careful look.

And it's (almost) all down to Elon Musk's Tesla Motors. The company that refused to sell its vehicles via dealers (calling it a "conflict of interest" as his car's ultimate goal was to replace the traditional ones) is changing rules across the country as more and more states are warming up to the idea of direct sales, and that's not all. The Model 3 launch also changed another well-established paradigm of the automotive world: we build them, you give us the money, we give the cars to you.

The unexpected success of the Model 3 may launch a new way of selling cars. Instead of the manufacturers investing heavily in the vehicle's production, doing their best to keep it secret and then putting it up for sale, the fresh electric sedan from Tesla went another way. By showing it to the public beforehand and asking for a deposit, Musk managed to make over $400 million in cash in just one month, due to the 400,000 registrations. That's money he can use to finalize the car's production while more and more people pay the symbolic registration fee of $1,000.

And bear in mind there's still the phase two of Model 3's introduction, which could generate a new wave of registrations, albeit a smaller one. Could the days of keeping a car secret until it was ready be over? Most likely not, but it just goes to show that if your product is appealing enough, showing it beforehand won't do anything to curb the people's enthusiasm, on the contrary.

So, there you have it, Elon Musk is The Drive's most influential person in the automotive industry. The least surprising award that ever existed. Now let's see if he can make it two years in a row and keep his title in 2017 as well.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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