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Can Detroit catch up to Elon Musk’s electric cars?

Feb 24, 2015

Elon Musk and a vehicle made by his company, Tesla.
Credit Flickr user Maurizio Pesce / Flickr

As we talk about the auto industry, the "Detroit Three," it's all too easy to forget that these enormous companies began as scrappy little start-ups, birthed by innovators who were not afraid to set the status quo on its ear.

An electrical engineer named Henry Ford was one such innovator.

In 2015, a South African genius named Elon Musk is another.

The co-founder and chief executive of Tesla Motors recently spoke to the Automotive World News Congress, held during the recent auto show in Detroit. And Kevin Krease, author of "Can Detroit re-revolutionize the auto industry, or is Elon Musk beating us to is" for Model D thinks the auto establishment did not give Musk the attention and respect he deserves.

"Musk is just a poignant leader right now," said Krease. "He is provocative. He is energetic. He says things that no one else is willing to say. He has the brashness to think that he can create whole new industries or at least revolutionize them."

He says while the rest of the auto industry is fighting for any slight increases in their market share, Musk is simply trying to move the electric car industry forward.

While Krease was excited about Musk's revolutionary ideas, he says the older crowd in the room did not react with the same energy.

And Krease says that Musk and Telsa are only a small part of the changing mobility landscape. Subscriptions services or systems of transportation that allow you to not own a car are the future, according to Krease.

"The problem is that we have these entrenched incumbents that are used to change taking a long period of time," Krease says. "We are not understanding that change is now exponential with networks and the internet. What happens if we start deciding to stop owning cars? These changes are happening and the fallout for Detroit is immense."

Detroit's economy relied only on the auto industry and Krease says we're ashamed of that, but we cannot ignore that the industry is "completely changing right now and provides a lot of opportunities to build whole new companies off of."