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In 2009, Tesla was dismissed as a ‘bunch of engineers playing with laptop batteries,’ Nikola’s CEO says


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According to the new Nikola’s CEO says In 2009, GM dismissed Tesla as a ‘bunch of engineers playing with laptop batteries.

Nikola’s newly appointed CEO, Steve Girsky, who has assumed the role in August this year, draws a striking parallel to how GM once underestimated Tesla while speaking during a Q&A session. He emphasized that Tesla was frequently regarded as “just a bunch of engineers playing with laptop batteries” in the past.

Girsky believes that Nikola now possesses a substantial advantage over its competitors, reminiscent of the underestimated position that Tesla held during its early years.

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GM was one of Tesla’s biggest rivals less than 15 years ago. Girsky served on General Motors’ board of directors between 2009 and 2016. He raised the subject of Tesla shortly after joining the auto giant according to a transcript provided by AlphaSense/Sentieo.

“I asked about Tesla and was told that it was just a bunch of engineers playing with laptop batteries,” Girsky said while reflecting on his tenure at GM

“That was conventional wisdom at the time, and we know how that turned out,” he continued. “Tesla got a 10-year jump start on the entire industry.”

Girsky shared the anecdote to underline his belief that Nikola has a similar headstart on its competition.

“The big guys are writing off the zero-emission trucking industry,” he said. “I know they’re playing with prototypes, but they believe this tech is late-decade stuff at the earliest.”

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Tesla, a pioneer in battery technology and electric vehicles, has defied much of the auto industry’s expectations in recent years.

Its revenues ballooned from about $112 million in 2009 to $81 billion last year, and it swung from a net loss of $254 million to $12.6 billion of net income, the company’s annual reports show.

The automaker’s market capitalization has also mushroomed from around $2 billion when it joined the stock market in 2010, to about $830 billion today. It now dwarfs GM, worth $46 billion, and has even surpassed Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, worth $807 billion.

Nikola might be saddled with a number of very serious concerns about viability but they have spent many years developing both all-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell trucks.

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In fact, Girsky says that one of the brand’s gamma hydrogen fuel-cell trucks is in testing and recently drove 900 miles (1,448 km) in a single day. He then challenged anyone to show him another “zero-emission vehicle truck anywhere” that can go that far in a day.

Tesla obviously went from being dismissed to being the powerhouse that it is today in part because automakers didn’t believe in profitable electric cars. Presently, it’s clear that Tesla’s influence has encompassed the globe and just about every single automaker on it, including those who specialize in sports cars and trucks.

If Nikola can prove half as successful it’ll be a resounding comeback story given recent developments.

It is a well known that Auto executives have voiced their skepticism of Musk’s EV company on many occasions.  “It’s driven purely by psychology or almost a mass psychosis,” Bob Lutz, a former GM, Ford, and Chrysler executive, declared in February 2020 after Tesla stock more than tripled in six months. Shares of Musk’s company have surged more than five-fold since Lutz made those comments.

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