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Elon Musk Wants to Bore You

By Evan Niu, CFA - Apr 16, 2016 at 10:00AM

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"We'll be successful, ironically, when it becomes boring."

Falcon 9 launch and landing streaks from December. Image source: SpaceX.

In the last few years, Elon Musk's roller-coaster career has really taken off. Both of Musk's companies nearly died at the onset of the Great Recession, but both have now bounced back with a vengeance. Tesla (TSLA 4.53%), SpaceX, and Musk have had a few jam-packed weeks.

Tesla unveiled the highly anticipated Model 3, garnering over 325,000 reservations over the course of a week. SpaceX then proceeded to successfully land its second Falcon 9 booster, which was the first successful sea landing. Regardless of how you feel about either Tesla's or SpaceX's prospects, you have to admit that it's incredibly exciting just to witness what both companies are accomplishing in their respective industries.

And Musk hopes that eventually, you'll get bored with it.

Boredom is the goal
Following the Dragon CRS-8 launch and landing earlier this month, NASA hosted a press conference to discuss the mission results. Musk fielded the vast majority of the media questions, discussing a variety of topics such as technical details of the mission and SpaceX's future. He reiterated that the fundamental goal of SpaceX was to achieve rapid reusability of rockets, which would lead to a hundredfold decrease in the marginal costs associated with space travel.

This is how he framed what success would look like for SpaceX in the future: "We'll be successful, ironically, when it becomes boring." He added that when the public's response is, "Oh yeah, another landing, no news there," then SpaceX will have achieved its goal.

Right now, watching the Falcon 9 landings is far from boring.

But if rocket landings eventually become commonplace -- for SpaceX and its peers -- then the company will have accomplished its goal of transitioning toward a model of rapid reusability, instead of the outgoing model of simply discarding every rocket booster after a single use.

Compare this framework to aircraft. Nowadays, tens of thousands of commercial airliners take off and land every single day, and no one thinks twice about it. In the U.S. alone, there are 87,000 flights per day. Only a third of these are commercial flights. But Kitty Hawk was a big deal back in the day.

How this thinking applies to Tesla
While EVs don't inspire the same kind of reactions as a rocket landing itself intact, there's still something to be said about a day when EVs are commonplace.

Model S is one of the few exciting EVs on the market right now. Image source: Tesla.

Part of the reason why EVs aren't as exciting as a product category is because most EVs have been compromised in some way -- either range, acceleration, or price. Most mainstream EVs to date compromised on range and acceleration in order to hit an affordable price. Tesla took the opposite approach, offering plenty of range and acceleration in order to excite consumers, but that performance initially came at a high price.

More broadly, the auto industry is now entering what will also likely go down in history as an incredibly exciting period of time. Tesla has catalyzed the transition to EVs, and every major automaker is on the cusp of launching mainstream EVs. The transition will take decades, but eventually seeing a bunch of EVs drive down the street will be as boring as it gets.

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