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Edward Niedermeyer

Tesla Desperately Needs a Crossover Hit

Older automakers understand that you have to build many cars on the same platform.
And zero profits.

And zero profits.

Photographer: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

When Tesla Inc. chief executive officer Elon Musk was asked if his burgeoning collection of startup companies might lead him to step away from the electric automaker, he said he'd stick around as long as he could "positively contribute" to its success. "The most valuable thing I could contribute is product design and technology," he told analysts on the firm's first quarter earnings call on Wednesday. "That's my forte; that's what I like doing."

Under Musk's leadership, Tesla has produced a series of undeniably desirable vehicles that helped it briefly become, on paper anyway, the most valuable automaker in the nation. But is has rolled these cars out in a frantic, iterative, inefficient and nonstrategic manner that shows why mainstream automakers tend to be run by "bean counters" rather than creative visionaries.