以移动电话为例。摩托罗拉（Motorola）1982年发布的DynaTAC 8000X售价3995美元（相当于今天的近1万美元）。在1987年的电影《华尔街》（Wall Street）中，手持这部巨大手机的戈登•杰科代表了手机用户的普遍形象：富有、傲慢、无礼。到了1998年，诺基亚（Nokia）6160（20世纪90年代最流行的手机款式）价格为900美元，依然让大多数顾客望而却步。直到21世纪以来，手机行业实现了突飞猛进的进步，才不再被当作奢侈品，价格便宜到能让普通大众接受。
Tesla Motors made news last Wednesday when it posted its first quarterly profit. But the maker of luxury electric vehicles continues to come under fire.
The U.S. government gives a $7,500 tax credit to anyone who buys one of its cars, but at more than $70,000 for a Model S sedan, only the rich can afford to benefit. The Department of Energy has also provided the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company with a $465 million loan guarantee, which boosts returns for Tesla's wealthy owners while putting taxpayers' money at risk. No wonder many are furious with Washington for "subsidizing cools cars for rich people."
The truth, though, is that selling Teslas (TSLA) to wealthy people today may be the best way to get electric cars to everyone tomorrow, and for the United States to eventually reduce its dependence on oil, with all the national security and economic benefits that entails.
The U.S. economy is making big gains as domestic oil production rises, but high U.S. oil use leaves the nation vulnerable to dangerous spikes in the price of crude. With biofuels and fuel cells both faltering, electric cars may be one of the best ways out.
But electric cars face a massive uphill battle. They lack the economies of scale and track record that traditional cars enjoy. They don't have the hundred-plus years of experience that's allowed their competitors to bring technology costs down. And while some big advances will come from people tinkering in labs, getting more electric cars onto the road is essential to figuring out how to manufacture lots of them efficiently, develop new ways to finance sales, and engineer networks of charging stations so that drivers don't run out of fuel.
Those initial cars, though, will be part of a niche market and come at a premium price. And the wealthy are a natural target market.
Take the cellular telephone. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, released in 1982, sold for $3,995 (equivalent to nearly $10,000 today). Gordon Gecko, who carried one of the behemoths around in the 1987 movie Wall Street, typified the cell phone user: rich, arrogant, brash. As late as 1998, the Nokia 6160 (the most popular cell phone model of the 1990s) sold for $900, well beyond the reach of most consumers. It was not until the 2000s that cell phones, which improved dramatically while they were considered a luxury good, became cheap enough for mass adoption.
During the 20 or so years that it took the cell phone to move from high-end product to mass market, the phones themselves transformed too. The DynaTAC was more than a foot long, weighed over two pounds, and had a one-hour battery life; today, you can buy a two-ounce phone that's smaller than your palm for $20.