Elon Musk has tackled electric cars, space ships and modular renewable energy stations. Now he wants a real challenge: running Detroit.
“When the mess gets sorted out, I’d like to have a conversation with whoever’s in charge at the time — the car czar or whoever — and say ‘I’d like to run your plants, if you don’t mind,’” Musk said, starting that conversation Monday at Wired’s first-ever business conference, Disruptive by Design in Manhattan.
What would he do? Hint: he doesn’t think much of namby-pamby hybrids. In the future, Musk said, only electric cars will make sense.
He characterized cars like the Toyota Prius as “splitting the baby” in the style of King Solomon — a compromise that delivers neither the perfect gas-driven or electric-driven experience, due to the duplicate equipment required to harness dual energy sources.
“[The electric car] is an inevitable thing,” Musk said in a conversation with Wired editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson. “The reason I’m putting so much time and effort into helping create Tesla is because I’m hoping we can accelerate that transformation.”
The Paypal co-founder, who made nearly $200 million when eBay acquired that company in 2002, now focuses his energy on three quasar-hot topics: electric cars (at Tesla, the only company that currently sells one), space exploration (at Space-X, which won the contract to replace the Space Shuttle), and new energy technologies (at Solar City, which builds solar power systems for single-family homes and corporations).
Gossip mongers hoping for dirt in the ongoing lawsuit between Musk and Tesla founder Martin Eberhard will have to look elsewhere — with one possible exception.
Part of the problem with Detroit, he says, is the union system. “It’s not out of the question to have unions, but if there’s going to be a union, they’d better understand that they’re on the same side as the company,” he added. “I’m against having a two-class system where you’ve got the workers and then the managers, sort of like nobles and peasants…
“Most of our experienced factory workers come from unionized environments, and we asked them what benefit did they see in unions,” he added. “They said, ‘Well, if their boss was an asshole, they had recourse.’
“I said, ‘Let’s make a rule: There will be no assholes.’ I fired someone for being an asshole. And I only had to do that once, actually.”
Pictured: Chris Anderson (l) and Elon Musk (r). Photo by James Moran
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