What Beating the Competition Actually Looks Like – A Lesson from Tesla and Ford

by Sean Boyce
tesla vs ford competition

I’m a car guy.  Since I was a little kid I’ve been fascinated by them.  It started with toys then graduated to RC (remote controlled) models that I built myself from scratch and ultimately graduated to rebuilding classic muscle cars.  It’s something that will always be in my DNA.

What’s also great about cars is that everyone knows what they are.  They serve as a great example to study products.  

Even though most of my work (and possibly yours) is based in software, tangible products (cars) often provide great examples for learning lessons in product strategy and success.  

One of the questions that burns in all of our minds is – how do I know how well my product compares to my competition?

That’s a great question, but the answer is complicated.  

Since we are only really able to observe how well our competitors are doing from the outside, there is no way to really know the answers to questions such as the financial performance of your competitors (if they are private companies).  Instead, we have to look for certain milestones in their company history. Did they raise a large round? That’s usually a good sign. Is their workforce shrinking? That’s usually a bad sign. So on and so forth.  

I’m going to combine these topics (cars and competition) to provide for you a very recent and great example of what beating your competition actually looks like so you can keep your eyes peeled in your own market for these signs as you’re going about building your product business.

Since I talk about the automotive industry quite a bit, the electric vehicle has been a topic I’ve studied.  I know the long and complicated history rather well. As most of us are aware, with the more recent success of companies like Tesla, the electric vehicle appears to be back in force.

While other automotive manufacturers have definitely been paying attention, they have also been rather slow to take a seat at the table.  

Very recently, perhaps the biggest name in the space – Ford has made a rather large bet on the electric car market.  I’m talking about arguably the most successful product in Ford’s lineup over the entire history of the company – the Mustang.  

Ford has recently unveiled an all electric Mustang.  I can’t overstate how huge this is.  The Mustang is a prized product in Ford’s fleet.  It has been hugely successful since it debuted in the early 1960s.  We’re talking about nearly 60 years of history that Ford is willing to gamble with in a big way to make a significant bet on the future of the car market.  This is simply to demonstrate for you that Ford is taking this seriously.  

Now back to the topic at hand – what does beating the competition actually look like?

Well, it’s no surprise that the company most deserving of credit for reviving the (very much on life support) electric vehicle is Tesla.  They’ve continued to have success disrupting the automotive industry in a big way. Perhaps it’s safe to say that the changes Tesla has brought to the industry in recent years are here to stay – forever.  

So the news of the all new electric Mustang is a much a compliment to Tesla as it is to Ford.  In fact, Tesla’s CEO responded in the best possible way to support his brand (see the tweet below).

 

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This is great and all, but how exactly does this mean they are beating the competition?

Well for starters – Tesla is credited with bringing the electric vehicle to mass market and this is something Ford knows all too well since they are credited with bringing the automobile to mass market.

However, for the real answer, you’ve got to look a little closer.

I watched the reveal of the electric Mustang (code-named the Mustang Mach-E) on live stream.  What I noticed is that much of what is to come from this new vehicle reminds of a few rather popular models already on the market.  

Take a look for yourself…

The all new electric Mustang Mach-E Interior (Not a Tesla, I think?)

Notice anything familiar?  I challenge you to find significant differences from this interior and what has become the standard offering from Tesla.  See the comparison for yourself. The image below is from the Tesla Model S.

Interior from the Tesla Model S (Not the Mustang Mach-E, I think?)

The differences between these two images are…well besides the logo on the steering wheel – not much.  Giant touch enabled screen in the center console replacing pretty much all the mechanical buttons combined with a dashboard that is also digital.  

Take note – this is what beating the competition actually looks like.  

Ford is clearly taking from Tesla’s lead and following in their footsteps.  This is a clear indication that Ford has acknowledged the fact that Tesla is in the lead in this category.  So as exciting as this reveal was for Ford – it was even more exciting for Tesla. This is what real acknowledgement and respect looks like from the competition.  

Far too often and for far too long, companies have rejected shifts in the market.  Ultimately, these devastating decisions have often led to their demise. I’m looking your way BlockBuster Video.

If you really want to know what beating your competition looks like then look for these signs.  If you’re doing something innovative and different, once you see your competitors (especially if they are larger) start to mimic you then you’ll know you’ve made waves.  This will be a sign that not only have you been granted tremendous respect, but that you are actually now leading the market.  

Want to know what beating the competition looks like for your product?  Let’s talk it through, email me at sean@nxtstep.io or visit us on the web at NxtStep.

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