Tesla CEO Elon Musk fired a warning shot across the bow of legacy automakers this week, cautioning that they could face a “Kodak moment” if they do not accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.
Musk’s comments came in response to a tweet predicting traditional automakers are “about to have their Kodak moment.” The phrase refers to the downfall of photography giant Kodak, which failed to adapt to digital cameras and eventually went bankrupt.
“It is unfortunately trending that way for many automakers,” Musk replied. “Some companies do understand, but their pace of change is nonetheless slow.”
While automakers like Ford, GM, and others are ramping up EV efforts, sales still make up less than 10% of the U.S. new car market. Tesla remains far ahead, accounting for nearly 80% of EVs sold in the country last year.
Musk reiterated that Tesla aims to assist other companies’ shift to EVs. He cited moves like open-sourcing patents, providing Supercharger access, and offering to license autonomous driving technology as examples.
However, analysts warn deeply ingrained cultures and business models make change difficult for established automakers. Investments in EVs have also eaten into profits as companies juggle transformation costs.
Tesla’s meteoric rise has shown that betting on the inevitability of EVs is paying off. As battery costs fall and charging infrastructure expands, many see an EV-dominated future. But Musk made clear that legacy automakers need to pick up the pace or risk obsolescence.
With vehicle electrification ramping up globally, those unable to keep pace with market demands could face dire consequences. As Musk put it, the writing is on the wall: adapt or face a “Kodak moment.”