The Challenging Road Ahead

We are in a brave new world of transportation development. While it is an exciting time, it is also a challenging time for both mainstream auto manufacturers as well as for a burgeoning new crop of mobility startups. As a 20-year veteran of the automotive industry and someone who has been intimately involved on the MarComm side representing both mainstream OEMs as well as startup EV companies, I understand the extreme challenges inherent with the production, development and distribution of a mass market vehicle for sale in the US. Recent articles from Automotive News, Motor Trend and Green Car Reports have detailed the multitude of potential pitfalls and issues inherent with starting a new car company — even for industry darling Tesla.

While I do understand some of the media’s skepticism, I believe some of these companies and their founders represent an incredibly impressive and passionate bunch and I applaud them for their efforts! In my opinion this is made even more so in spite of the noted prior failures. But should we all just stop trying to improve on what is currently available in today’s transportation market, or just leave it to the well-established car companies to come up with a better mousetrap?

I don’t personally know the motivations behind some of the other companies mentioned in the articles but it does feel like a new age of vehicle design and development is upon us and it is filled with a clever new breed of innovators. Of course for every Louis Chevrolet, Henry Ford and David Dunbar Buick, you’ll also have a few E.L. Cords, Preston Tuckers and James Packards.

Some of the individuals who have succeeded with their motor car dreams are now being applauded for their tireless efforts. In fact, General Motors just celebrated the reopening of the historic Durant-Dort Factory One, in Flint, Michigan, where GM founder Billy Durant and partner Josiah Dallas Dort started the Flint Road Cart Company in 1886.

Despite some of the accomplishments a media bias persists against these new startups. I would ask the media–and the buying public–to take each company on their own merit and not simply write them all off as charlatans employing smooth PR tactics in attempts to make a fast buck. In fact it’s quite often the opposite. The entrepreneurs I’ve gotten to know in this arena are passionate about their vehicles and are undertaking this endeavor because they firmly believe in what they are doing.

And while the financial realities are massive, I don’t have an issue with trying to attract the attention of the investment community and the public at large so long as the endeavor is honest and forthright. Heck, back in the day Tucker could only afford to produce one vehicle so he took a Tucker 48 around the country and painted it different colors to give the appearance that he had multiple cars. Admittedly he had a bit of PT Barnum in him, but he was simply trying to get attention of what he knew was a ground-breaking and innovative product that he truly believed in. In fact, it was such a colorful tale, Hollywood even made a movie out of his journey.

None of us can predict the future or know with any degree of certainty if one of these new ventures will succeed, but I say, “Enjoy the ride,” and embrace these firebrands and the new age of the automobile!

Jeff Holland
About the author: 

Jeff Holland is the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Bollinger Motors, the New York-based home of the world’s first all-electric sport utility truck.  Jeff’s career includes executive assignments with Jaguar Land Rover, NRG Energy, Experian, General Motors and Toyota.  Follow him on Twitter.