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商业 - 科技

特斯拉可能成为下一个苹果

Mohanbir Sawhney 2017年05月17日

如果特斯拉可以彻底改造汽车,改造汽车工厂,他们就有很大的机会成为下一个苹果。

特斯拉(Tesla)的首席执行官伊隆•马斯克大胆预言,他市值530亿美元的公司未来将会拥有堪比苹果(Apple)的估值。后者目前的市值为8,000亿美元,是全球最具价值的公司。他的理由是特斯拉将用“机器生产机器”的自动化技术颠覆制造业。尽管这看起来还只是空中楼阁,不过特斯拉的确有理由变成下一个苹果。

特斯拉声称他们可以开发完全自动化的生产过程,其革命性堪比亨利•福特的连续装配线。1913年,福特完全改变了制造流程,把Model T的装配过程拆分成了84个不同的步骤,汽车在一条输送带上就可以完成组装。它给制造业带来了革命性的影响,将一辆汽车的装配时间从12小时缩减到90分钟。借此,公司把Model T的成本从850美元减少到30美元,而且每24秒就能制造一辆车。截至1927年,福特已经卖出了1,500万辆Model T,连续装配线也成为了汽车制造业的基础,一直至今。尽管借助机器人的自动化作业极大增加了汽车制造业的效率,但最后的装配流程仍然是由人工完成的。

特斯拉打算利用公司先进的软件和人工智能技术,结合他们2016年11月收购Grohmann Automation获得的先进自动化制造能力,建立一家高产量且制造成本大大降低的汽车工厂。特斯拉在博客上谈到了这个有趣的设想:“工厂本身比产品更像是产品。”特斯拉相信,他们可以极大增加产量,减少制造的劳动力成本,从而引领下一次制造业革命。

那么为什么其他汽车厂商不去效仿并超越特斯拉呢?首先,他们的产品和工厂都受到了历史原因的拖累。特斯拉的电动汽车制造难度远远低于内燃机汽车。他们的Model S只有不到20个活动部件,以内燃机为引擎的汽车则有将近1,500个。这就意味着特斯拉汽车的组装更简单,联系的供应商更少,零部件的库存负担也更轻。此外,特斯拉不需要应付工人工会,复杂的供应链,或留存下来的经销商网络。没有了这些,特斯拉就不必担心工人、供应商和经销商拖后腿,专心于颠覆性创新。

为了有朝一日达到苹果的规模,特斯拉需要在制造上比“亨利•福特”更加高超。还需要像“史蒂夫•乔布斯”一样利用营销,让产品在国际上拥有巨大的需求。苹果的iPhone是国际性产品,在纽约、孟买、北京等地方都能大卖,只需要一点增量投资。然而,特斯拉需要从零开始去建立充电的基础设施和经销商网络,这是一个相当耗资和耗时的过程。他们要一个国家一个国家地去建设。中国是重要的海外市场,斯堪的纳维亚半岛也是。他们还计划在印度推出Model 3。

特斯拉雄心勃勃的道路上会有很多阻碍。怀疑者指出,特斯拉在追求远大理想的过程中可能会耗尽资金:他们需要投资的领域包括生产设备、电池制造、充电设施和经销商网络,想要达到他们需求的规模,投资规模就会过于巨大,收回成本的时间也漫漫无期。特斯拉收购Grohmann也不太顺利,后者的创始人和前任首席执行官克劳斯•格罗曼上个月与马斯克意见相左,之后离开了公司。

此外,在传统汽车厂商之外,特斯拉还有其他竞争对手。谷歌(Google)、优步(Uber)和中国的百度(Baidu)等科技公司都在研发无人驾驶技术。然而,这些竞争者也可能成为特斯拉的客户,因为相对于自动化生产,他们对技术和服务更感兴趣。

特斯拉能否在国际规模和盈利能力上达到苹果的高度,只有时间可以告诉我们答案,不过我们有三个理由保持乐观。首先,特斯拉先进的自动化生产可能让公司的畅销车型如Model 3产生巨大的利润——苹果iPhone的成功公式就是大需求+高利润。其次,特斯拉的目标很单纯,个人魅力出众的创始人只想赢得全球统治地位——就像亚马逊(Amazon)的杰夫•贝佐斯和苹果的史蒂夫•乔布斯一样。在企业家和管理者的竞争中,企业家往往会是赢家。

最后,历史显示,颠覆的力量往往不会来自在位者。特斯拉在颠覆工厂生产的方式——这是现有的汽车厂商很难去实现的。如果特斯拉可以彻底改造汽车,改造汽车工厂,他们就有很大的机会成为下一个苹果。(财富中文网)

作者莫汉比尔•绍尼是美国西北大学(Northwestern University)凯洛格商学院(Kellogg School of Management)麦考密克讲坛基金会(McCormick Tribune Foundation)的技术教授。

译者:严匡正

Tesla (tsla) CEO Elon Musk's bold prediction that his $53 billion company could one day be as valuable as Apple(aapl), the most valuable company in the world with an $800 billion market cap, is based on his logic that Tesla will disrupt manufacturing with automation by going after the “machine that makes the machine.” While it may seem just pie in the sky, there is a case for Tesla to become the next Apple.

Tesla is betting that it can create a fully automated manufacturing process that will be as revolutionary as Henry Ford’s continuous assembly line. Ford revolutionized manufacturing in 1913 by creating a process that broke the assembly of the Ford Model T into 84 distinct steps as the car moved down the line on a conveyer belt. The process revolutionized production and dropped the assembly time for a single vehicle from 12 hours to 90 minutes. Ford was able to reduce the cost of the Model T from $850 to $30 and produce a car every 24 seconds. Ford ended up selling 15 million Model T cars by 1927, and the continuous assembly line remains the foundation of automobile manufacturing to this day. Although automation with robots has dramatically improved the efficiency of automotive manufacturing, the final assembly is still a manual process.

Tesla aims to combine its capabilities in advanced software and artificial intelligence (AI) with advanced automated manufacturing capabilities it acquired in November 2016 by buying Grohmann Automation to create a factory that will produce very high volumes at much lower costs than today’s auto factories. A fascinating insight from Tesla’s blog: The “factory becomes more of a product than the product itself.” Tesla believes that it can usher in the next manufacturing revolution by dramatically increasing production volumes and reducing labor costs in manufacturing.

So why won’t other auto manufacturers follow suit and overtake Tesla? First, their products, as well as their factories, are bogged down by legacy. Tesla’s electric cars are significantly easier to manufacture than internal combustion (IC) vehicles. Tesla’s Model S has fewer than 20 moving parts, compared with almost 1,500 moving parts in an IC-engine car. This means that there are fewer steps in the assembly process, fewer suppliers to deal with, and lower inventory of components and parts. Further, Tesla doesn’t have to deal with a unionized workforce, a complex supply chain, or a legacy dealer network. Free from this legacy, Tesla can embrace disruptive innovation without worrying about the backlash from workers, suppliers, and dealers.

To become as big as Apple one day, Tesla will need more than the “Henry Ford” approach to manufacturing. It will also need the “Steve Jobs” approach to marketing by creating a vast global appetite for its products. The Apple iPhone is a global product that can be sold from New York to Mumbai to Beijing with very little incremental investment. However, Tesla’s cars require the creation of infrastructure for charging and a distribution network from scratch—a very expensive and time-consuming process. Tesla will need to build out its charging network and distribution reach, country by country. China is an important overseas market for Tesla, as is Scandinavia; it also has a rollout plan for India with its Model 3.

There are many bumps in the road in Tesla’s ambitious journey. Skeptics point out that Tesla may run out of cash in the pursuit of its lofty ambitions: The investments that Tesla will need to make in manufacturing, battery production, charging infrastructure, and distribution networks will be too large and will take too long to pay off for Tesla to reach the scale that it needs. Tesla’s acquisition of Grohmann also hit a bump when the founder and former CEO Klaus Grohmann exited the company last month after a disagreement with Musk.

Tesla isn’t without competitors, either, beyond the traditional automakers. Technology companies such as Google(goog, +0.17%), Uber, and Baidu of China are all involved in autonomous driving technology. However, these competitors can potentially also become customers for Tesla, as they’re more interested in technology and services than automotive manufacturing.

While only time will tell if Tesla can reach the global scale and profitability of Apple, there are three reasons to be optimistic. First, Tesla’s advanced automated manufacturing may allow it to reduce costs to the point that its mass-market models, such as the Model 3, can be highly profitable—a combination of high demand and high profits that was the formula for the Apple iPhone. Second, Tesla has the purity of purpose and a charismatic founder intent on global domination—just as Jeff Bezos has done at Amazon(amzn, +1.45%) and Steve Jobs did at Apple. In a race between entrepreneurs and managers, entrepreneurs usually win.

Finally, history suggests that disruption rarely comes from incumbents. Tesla is disrupting the product as well as the factory that makes the product—something that incumbent automakers will find very difficult to do. If Tesla can reinvent the car and also reinvent the car factory, it stands a good chance of becoming the next Apple.

Mohanbir Sawhney is the McCormick Tribune Foundation professor of technology at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.


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