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Opinion | Elon Musk Wouldn’t Be the First Car Company Founder to Flame Out

🌈 Abstract

The article draws parallels between the careers of Elon Musk and William Crapo Durant, two visionary entrepreneurs who built and lost control of major automotive companies. It explores the lessons that can be learned from the early days of the automobile industry and the challenges faced by founders transitioning their companies from visionary pioneers to reliable mass producers.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Before there was Elon Musk, there was William Crapo Durant

1. What are the key similarities between Elon Musk and William Crapo Durant?

  • Both are brilliant, restless builders of empires and defiers of convention
  • Both experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows of business

2. How did William Crapo Durant's business career unfold?

  • Built one of the world's biggest makers of horse-drawn carriages
  • Bought control of Buick and co-founded General Motors
  • Was forced out of General Motors, co-founded Chevrolet, regained control of General Motors
  • Speculated on stocks, lost control of General Motors a second time
  • Started Durant Motors, went bankrupt in the Depression
  • Opened a bowling alley, suffered a stroke and died penniless in 1947

3. How does the author suggest Elon Musk's fate may differ from Durant's?

  • It's highly unlikely that Musk, one of the world's richest people, will die penniless

[02] Lessons from the Early Days of the Automobile Industry

1. What lesson does the article suggest about visionaries with self-control issues?

  • The world is not always kind to visionaries with self-control issues, as evidenced by Durant flaming out at GM twice

2. How did the more prudent organization man Alfred Sloan, who succeeded Durant, fare in comparison?

  • Sloan went from success to success, and renowned institutions bear his name

3. What parallel does the article draw between Tesla and GM's early days?

  • As Tesla struggles in the transition from a visionary pioneer to reliable producer of cars in high volume, the article suggests Tesla may need to find its own "Alfred P. Sloan" to succeed, similar to how GM did.
Shared by Daniel Chen ·
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