Imagine a company that specializes in selling high-end technology products, that is supported by a cultish group of devoted fans, and that’s run by a notoriously demanding CEO who’s hellbent on changing the world. That sounds a lot like Apple under Steve Jobs, doesn’t it? It sure does, but it could also be used to describe Tesla under CEO Elon Musk right now.

And those aren’t the only similarities, as Stratechery’s Ben Thompson makes clear in a fascinating new essay comparing the two companies.

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Thompson makes a compelling argument that Tesla has forced the rest of the automobile industry to completely rethink the concept of the car just as Apple forced the mobile phone industry to completely rethink its own products after the launch of the iPhone. And because Tesla has gotten such a head start with developing all-electric cars and has such a strong brand right now, it might be able to hold off competition from rival car companies when they come out with their own all-electric vehicles over the next few years.

“The radical rethinking of a car made possible by a new drivetrain gave Tesla the opportunity to make the best car: there was a clean slate,” he writes. “More than that, Tesla’s lack of car-making experience was actually an advantage: the company’s mission, internal incentives, and bottom line were all dependent on getting electric right.”

And this is going to be important for Tesla in the coming years: As BMW, Mercedes and other manufacturers start cranking out their own electric cars, is Tesla going to keep offering drivers an experience that they can’t get anywhere else?

The company definitely has a major advantage in terms of charging station infrastructure and it’s done an amazing job in developing electric cars that aren’t just for people who want to be environmentally conscious, but for people who just like good cars. Whether that’s enough to hold up under the pressure of the rest of the auto industry is still up in the air, of course.

Be sure to read Thompson’s full essay at this link.

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