Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk: Less Tony Stark, More Henry Ford

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Recently there have been some small similarities showing up between Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) and Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F). Tesla is the newest U.S. automaker, while Ford is the oldest. Both of their stocks hit new 100-week highs this month. And now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) founder Henry Ford is his role model.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk: Less Tony Stark, More Henry Ford

Earlier this year Musk was considered to be a real live Tony Stark, the billionaire industrialist turned super hero from the Iron Man franchise. Henry Ford is pretty far removed from that image, some would say, although to Musk, Ford was certainly a hero.

Musk respects Henry Ford

Ford changed the automobile industry forever by implementing the assembly line and making the Ford Model T the first affordable vehicle.  Bloomberg’s Alan Ohnsman reports that Elon Musk named Tesla’s Model S for as a hat tip to Ford and his Model T. He sees himself as more of a Ford than a Tony Stark.

“Have you seen my desk?” Musk asked in an interview with Bloomberg at the Tesla factory. “It’s right there in the middle of the factory. It doesn’t look like Tony Stark’s office.

Ohnsman describes Musk’s office space as “a drab workspace beside the Model S line.”

Tesla still moving forward

This month Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) surpassed its goal of producing 400 vehicles per month, a major milestone it failed to do in the fourth quarter of last year. That failure caused the company to miss its goal of producing 5,000 vehicles in 2012 and widen its losses by hiring temporary workers to make up the difference.

Musk hasn’t said much about the company’s next quarterly earnings report, which is coming up soon. A consensus of analysts polled by Bloomberg indicates that they’re looking for losses of 18 cents per share.

Tesla’s business is modeled after early Ford

According to Musk, workers at Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) are honing their skills to increase production of the model S, but management is also making small changes to the vehicles to help with production time. For example, he said they replaced the aerospace-grade bolts with lighter, less expensive and easier-to-assemble aluminum reinforcements which still offer a five-star crash rating in the U.S. Musk said the change in bolts, plus other small changes will reduce the weight of the Model S by 80 pounds or more by the end of the year.

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Tesla does its own die-casting of parts and is vertically integrated. In fact, Musk said his operation of Tesla is more like Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) under Henry Ford than today’s Ford is like it. The Ford River Rouge Complex in Michigan is the biggest vertically integrated auto facility, and it was built by Henry Ford. Over time however, Ford joined other automakers in abandoning the vertically integrated approach because they found that suppliers could help improve the efficiency of their factories.

Auto industry experts like Bill Ford, Henry Ford’s great-grandson, told Bloomberg that as Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) grows and expands, it will discover that managing the flow of the whole business becomes more difficult.

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