Is it enough to be 'green,' or does auto design matter?
At the AlwaysOn GoingGreen Conference in Sausalito, Calif., automakers and venture capitalists talk about whether sustainable design is enough to attract customers to their cars. The executives cite recent success stories, which include the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic. The panel is moderated by Frank Markus, Editor, Motor Trends Magazine. Panelists include: Kevin Czinger, CEO of Coda Automotive; Paul Wilbur, CEO of Aptera; Trae Vassallo, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; and JB Straubel, CTO of Tesla Motors.
RE: Is it enough to be 'green,' or does auto design matter?
>> Do you believe that the design is as important at luring customers to the sustainable vehicles, or will the desire to inaudible and be green help offset what they, they look like, generally speaking? Or is it a function of the price point? I mean those two cars are quite a bit higher priced and.
>> Personally I think it's extremely critical in the early phase of the market. You know if you look at, you know, the Prius I think is a good example of that, that everybody, you know, chose. And, you know, part of the reason the Prius has been so successful is, you know, I think it's a very good car that offers great value, but it's also distinctive. And it gives, you know, customers ability to, to be unique, and to be distinctive, and to be recognized for that. And I think having, you know, an ability to, to do that is going to be very important. Until the, you know, BB's and SUV's are just purely mass market. And we're, we're a few years away from that.
>> I think the other validation of that is the Honda Civic Hybrid, which is quite frankly as good if not better than the Prius. Technically speaking does not have a lot of uniqueness to its style. And I think it lacks, because it doesn't make a statement; where as the Prius makes a pretty good statement. So styling is always important.
>> And they came back with the insight, obviously, having learned that lesson.
>> Absolutely. Absolutely. And very quickly.
>> Yeah, and styling also doesn't hurt on being able to set your price point a little bit higher. I mean, obviously one of the reasons why some of the car companies are choosing to come in at the high end is, because as a start up it is a more profitable point to enter in. So if you can design a car that is, you know, one of our thesis going into this was, we wanted to invest in what we call a zero trade off car. The consumer could go buy, you know, a, a high end BMW, a Mercedes, or they could actually have a green alternative where there's relatively zero trade off to them. It this good looking car, there's, you know, no range, you know, inhibitors there. And, you know, it holds their kids; it holds their groceries. And so that to us was really important. And, and styling is part of that. People have emotional connections to their vehicles. So, you know, we, we, it's all part of the package.
>> Yeah, I guess our, you know, we took a car which we wanted to get into the market very quickly as a very safe car, and capsized phonetic our car, but do it at a good price point. And so for us, you know, styling and, you know, some of the smaller more subtle things you can do in terms of badging are important things. I mean there, they're important things, because people like their cars and they like to have some choice. But for us the very key thing, and, and we're not agnast, phonetic agnostic about battery electric vehicles. We totally 100% believe that battery electric vehicles and that lithium battery chemistry; specifically lithium iron phosphate battery chemistry, can have a long, long life now as a transportation energy storage chemistry. You know, our view was, you know, the key thing was getting people to buy into, and this is what I think we're gonna try to do over the next year as we start to market our production car, get people to buy into the fact that there is a real revolution that can take place. If you have a real, durable, reliable, you know, 150,000 mile life plus battery that gives you performance for 99% of what you do, meaning you get a true USO 600 miles plus, that is a revolution. People don't need over performance, or at least most people don't. And as we go from 700 million vehicles to 2 billion, you know, I think people will become more and more focused on how important it is to get away from dependant on oil and to find a, a much more cleaner alternative. And so, you know, for us it was coming in at that price point where you could have a large enough group of people, you know, buy into that revolution, and then commercialize that battery system. Start to drive down price and drive up performance.
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