Tesla, Not Apple, Will Dominate This Decade

When talking about the most powerful companies in the world, Apple is certainly at the top of the list. However, another company that has recently come closer to Apple in terms of market dominance is Tesla. Tesla is now the fourth-largest company in S&P 500.

Thesis

Ask yourself the following question: Has Apple recently launched any new or revolutionary products? The AirPods were quite revolutionary! Oh wait, that was seven years ago. Nowadays, Apple offers you the same products with only minor updates. I think it’s safe to say that Apple’s more innovative days are over and have been for some time. Don’t get me wrong, people will continue to buy their products because they are great products. Even with its prices, it still dominates the mass market in devices like phones, tablets, and computers. However, I do not believe Apple has set itself up to produce new or groundbreaking products across different industries. Apple’s biggest mistake over the past half-decade has been its inability to diversify outside of the gadget industry.

The Fall of Apple

Apple has gone from being an underdog company driving innovation and risk-taking in the late 90s and 2000s to a company focused on iterating and maintaining market share in the 2010s. Steve Jobs didn’t really care about Apple’s stock price. Less than a year after Steve Jobs died, Tim Cook and Apple’s board of directors distributed a dividend and announced a massive stock buyback. Apple could have tried to acquire innovative companies like Netflix and Tesla for pennies on the dollar, but didn’t. Apple CEO Tim Cook is determined to keep Wall Street happy. Instead of innovating, Apple has fallen into the trap of solving problems that don’t exist with its current products.

The Rise of Tesla

Since entering the S&P 500 in 2020, Tesla has continued to rapidly grow. Tesla is poised to dominate the rest of the index by the end of the decade, especially with the company’s position amidst a burgeoning EV and autonomous driving industry. People mistakenly think of Tesla as just a car company. Tesla is definitely more than just a car company. While electric cars are still the primary focus at Tesla, Elon Musk and his talented team have been quietly (and not so quietly) expanding into other industries. Some of these initiatives are directly related to cars like the company’s autonomous driving efforts and car insurance plans. Meanwhile, other initiatives are more closely related to Tesla’s overarching mission surrounding climate change including solar and stationary battery storage. I believe Tesla will define this decade with a suite of new and groundbreaking products.

Future Tesla products & services could include:

  • Cybertruck
  • Tesla Semis
  • Tesla’s Supercharger network
  • Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, Full Self-Driving Capability
  • Tesla Insurance
  • Tesla Robo Taxis
  • Tesla Powerwall
  • Tesla Bot

S-Curves

An S-curve graph helps describe, visualize and predict a business’ performance progressively over time. S-curves can help illustrate the rise or fall of a business.

Let’s define the parts of an S-curve.

  • At first, large amounts of money, effort, and other resources are spent on new technology, but small performance improvements are seen.
  • Then, as knowledge about technology accumulates, progress becomes faster. As soon as the major technical hurdles are overcome and the innovation reaches a certain level of adoption, exponential growth will take place. During this phase, relatively small increments of effort and resources will result in large performance gains.
  • Finally, as the technology begins to approach its physical limit, pushing performance further becomes more and more difficult, as shown in the figure below.

If you look at it from the big picture: the smartphone market is reaching a plateau, and Apple investors are concerned about growth, so the company needs to expand to new technology. In other words, Apple needs to jump to a new S-curve.

What separates Tesla and Apple is that Tesla has been working on multiple new technologies (see future products above) that will attack multiple s-curves in this upcoming decade. Meanwhile, Apple seemingly cannot branch outside of just one S-curve.

What About An “Apple Car”?

Apple has proven to have some of the best engineers, and with its advertisement and financial resources, they are capable of producing something truly memorable. It would make sense for Apple to have its own electric vehicle. As Anthony Fadell, co-creator of the iPod and the iPhone mentioned in an interview with Bloomberg: “A car has batteries; it has a computer; it has a motor, and it has mechanical structure. If you look at an iPhone, it has all the same things. It even has a motor in it. But the hard stuff is really on the connectivity and how cars could be self-driving.”

Project Titan

Rumors have long suggested that Apple is actively working on various automotive projects that could ultimately lead to an “Apple Car.” In 2015, Apple reportedly had a significant number of employees working on Project Titan. The term has been used to describe several different elements and technologies but falls into two broad categories: self-driving vehicle systems and car design. Fast forward eight years later and Project Titan looks like a headless chicken in front of a knife. Apple seemingly isn’t quite sure where it wants to take its automotive initiative.

News and Rumors

Latest news, but it’s quite fluctuating, Apple reportedly intends to unveil its first vehicle in 2024 or later. Apple has recruited Luigi Taraborrelli, the former boss in charge of the chassis of Lamborghini cars, he also took care of suspensions, brakes, rims, or even road holding. It seems most reasonable for Apple to wait until 2024 to release its car. By that time the technology for self-driving will be much further developed, and Apple seems to be focusing more on the technological part of it. In addition to that, the simplest way to produce electric vehicles for them would be to just build them to be self-driving from the start. Lucky for them, Elon Musk is talking about licensing Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software to other automakers.

Prototypes Are Easy

Those who think that Apple could overtake Tesla’s reign in the electric vehicle industry are in for a rude awakening. Prototyping a vehicle is easy, but producing vehicles at scale is incredibly difficult, and remaining cash flow positive is even more difficult. Electric cars require a different infrastructure than combustion engine vehicles. Legacy automakers that specialize in making cars are already struggling to convert their businesses to electric vehicles without going out of business. Apple’s only hope is to strike a deal with an automaker that hopefully can survive bankruptcy while transitioning to electric vehicles.

Final Thoughts

Bad leadership allowed this to happen. Apple had eight years to innovate and create an electric vehicle but didn’t. Apple had a chance to buy Netflix and Tesla, but didn’t. It’s a story of missed opportunities. Eventually, the S-curve plateaus and your business slowly declines.

Tesla has already solved autonomous driving and will have 4 million electric vehicles on the road by the end of 2022. It will have clear market domination as it conquers its first of many s-curves.

It’s sad to acknowledge it, but the autonomous vehicle market should have been Apple’s market.

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