Tesla: from sexy car company to clean energy empire

Elon Musk has visions of homeowners using solar panels to power their houses, store energy for emergenies in the battery storage and recharge their electric Teslas, all producing zero carbon emissions
Elon Musk has visions of homeowners using solar panels to power their houses, store excess energy from the panels in the Tesla Powerwall battery storage and recharge their electric Tesla cars, all producing zero carbon emissions

If you're wondering about Elon Musk's latest vision for Tesla, think Apple writes Russ Mitchell of the LA Times.

Apple succeeded in turning a bland market for electronic devices into a coveted and connected lifestyle where your phone, your tablet, your computer, your watch and your television can all be bought in one place and work seamlessly together

It's about passion too. People continue to line up at Apple stores overnight to be the first to possess the latest iPhone. The company's launch events resemble the gathering of a cult.

Selling the Tesla lifestyle

At Tesla Motors, Musk tapped into that kind of branding magic when he built electric cars that drive fast and look good. The spring launch of the upcoming Model 3 evoked an Apple-like frenzy in stores and online.

Now he's looking to create his own ecosystem, this one centered on sustainable energy, solar panels and batteries. It's a much less sexy realm than cars but at least as ambitious.

In recent weeks, Musk began to rapidly expand the Tesla footprint: merging with SolarCity to bring a major solar energy company into the fold, and laying out a sweeping "master plan" to transform Tesla beyond cars, by expanding into eco-friendly trucks and buses, ride-sharing and more.

The bold entrepreneur envisions Tesla stores as all-in-one destinations for green-minded shoppers, where one can buy an electric car, a charging station, a solar rooftop for the house and a futuristic-looking battery to store the excess power, all in the same place.

"In order for people to go en masse to sustainability, you really need to create something that doesn't have a lot of compromises," Musk said Friday in an interview with The Times. "Easy to order, easy to install, looks great when done."

But unlike Apple, which sells far less expensive consumer products, Tesla is venturing into new territory at a time when it hasn't proved that it can make money or meet production deadlines.

To become the first provider of a comprehensive clean energy lifestyle, Musk needs to sell not just products, but present the combined company as a fresh creator of a new way of living, with image and branding and marketing that convince consumers of all kinds to shell out big bucks to be part of it.

"We've got to reach people for whom the environment is not their top priority," Musk said. "What really matters is how do we get a lot of people to make the transition, not just a few."

More at LA Times

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