Dyson car


Turns out making cars is a couple of orders of magnitude more complicated not only from a product POV but from the perspectives of supply chain, liability, legality, sales channel… In a recent podcast I was asked if Nike would ever make a car. They make sneakers. If anything they would make a bicycle and they don’t even do that.

I like James Dyson, but I think we (collectively) have blown too much hot air up the rear ends of entrepreneurs. Cars are hard to make, to make profitable electric cars with no experience is 4x harder.

Nice looking model though. I dig the seats too.

almost hard just to get past this bit:

Sir James Dyson — now worth £16.2 billion — topping the Sunday Times Rich List for the first time

For making… vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, hand dryers, and fans? He basically recreated Westinghouse circa 1940 and made billions from it.

You’d think for something that is supposedly meant to do good, it would involve a radical shift in business being the way forward. Why start from scratch when you can join forces with an existing manufacturer to integrate the technology and jointly sell the product?

Perhaps old Elon would appreciate the tech if they could both set their own egos aside or better yet, one of the many failing car brands of the world

It seems like this is where apple smartly netted out. Why make the car when you can let others take all the risk and charges a royalty for having your tech inside? Especially in what right now is a contracting market. Already millennials didn’t have the money or credit to buy cars at the same rate as boomers and gen xers and now throw a global crisis on the pile. I assume we are going to see 5-10 brands disappear or need bailing out (again)

Money aside, I wouldn’t even say Millenials had the infrastructure for an EV even when they do become more affordable. I can only speak for the UK/European housing market as it may be different across the pond. With most of us being generation rent, there isn’t anywhere outside or inside our homes to park them and run a cable overnight. Especially those in apartments, you’re lucky if there’s a parking spot let alone facilities for power. Those that do have a driveway aren’t going to be investing in charging ports for the landlords property.

Do you think Apple was actually developing a car? I mean we all heard the talks and rumours, theres been hirings and patents etc… but I never for a second thought they were actually considering making a vehicle. I doubt they even designed one. To me it was always obvious that they were working on some tech that would go into cars. That’s why I was so surprised to see Dyson actually designed a car. Maybe it’s part of the PR strategy to sell the tech who knows.

Interesting thought. Do you think the car is soon to be the next buggy whip? (I’m rooting for that to be the case purely for the irony)

Well, it has been interesting to read about cities closing down some streets to car traffic during the pandemic to allow for more walking and social distancing. In the US at least, so much of the infrastructure is designed around individualized conveyances, I’m avoiding the word car intentionally because those small conveyance might be very different.

I think one thing I can say is that culturally the car is already dead. For boomers and gen x ers to older millennials (xellenials as they are being called now) from Grease, to American Graffiti, to The Fast and The Furious The car represented freedom, excitement, rebellion. As a kid getting my license in the early 90s it was the only way to really talk to my friends. We had the one land line, no internet, lived a couple of miles from my closest friend… you had to get in a car to go to the mall which was a 25 minute drive. That cultural focus around the car I think influenced people to over index their spend on cars. The rise of German imports in the US in the 80s, the creation of Japanese luxury brands in the 90s. The boom in sports cars in the late 90s / early 2000s starring with the Z3.

That is all different now. I’m not sure that is a bad thing. While I personally love cars I suspect there are enough manual transmission coupes made from the 1950s-2005 to keep enthusiasts and hobbyists entertained. When I see a company make a new sports car like the Supra I always wonder who they think the market is for that? Supra enthusiasts would rather have a 90s model and new car buyers don’t want that.

Not enough of the car to see if it’s good, but the interior is interesting in indeed.

Just because others suck at it, doesn’t mean it’s hard or a bad idea. Tesla is doing great and GM failing doesn’t make Tesla’s success any more probable. Obviously others who think they can make a car with much less experience than Dyson think there’s opportunity to be had too (Rivian, Bolinger, Future Faraday, etc.). Not all are going to work.

Nike may not make cars, but they also don’t make watches or sunglasses. (They license) Doesn’t mean they can’t.

This is an interesting take but as a counter point, I think every generation thinks their generation is the last with the opportunity. Be it music, cars, movies, or anything so ingrained in culture, you could say XXX was dead in the 50s…60s…80s… Fact remains things change. Cars may not be what they were in the 90s but I bet boomers thought that they sucked and the last ten of muscle cars and woody wagons was the only generation that mattered.

Cars will for sure be different now, but I also see opportunity.

If ownership isn’t the way forward (ie. with subscription models, car sharing, ride sharing), there’s a lot of things in design and cost that can be done that economically might not have been possible otherwise.

If driving isn’t the only experience that matters (ie. autonomous cars, ride sharing, city densification), what else can cars do as cultural, status, functional things?


PS. “xellenials” ? What? nope.


Didn’t say there wasn’t opportunity.

What I said is that the car as it is is culturally dead. The cultural representation of freedoms and expression has migrated elsewhere.

Obviously people will still need to transport, which is why I said at the beginning, the idea of a personal conveyance will still be there. From the standpoint of what is to come there is little difference between a muscle car and a Supra. Iterations. I think what will happen in the next 10-20 years will be more different.

Or we could be living in a Mad Max world run by xellenials. Who can say. :slight_smile:

I think when companies like Dyson make a vehicle that is going to cost north of $100k they realize that market just isn’t that big and it is shrinking with entrenched players. Is that consumer going to buy a luxury priced vehicle from the guy that makes Vacuums or from Porsche?

I did a project a few years back the prioritized access over ownership. Membership giving the opportunity to access a variety of vehicles from a daily commuter to a weekend outing vehicle, to a utility go to Home Depot go camping vehicle. I think this kind of vertically integrated closed system is unlikely. Both Volvo and Cadillac piloted it with little success (might have been the wrong brands to do so) but I do think there are opportunities in the following areas:

  1. Uber/Lyft Generic vehicles. It is easy to forget the company that made all of those NYC yellow cabs from the 50’s through the 80’s. Essentially a generic vehicle not available for consumer purchase. Of course this still exists in the form of the black cab in London. Imagine the volume you could get if you could figure out a safe, comfortable, sanitary, reliable vehicle sold at wholesale to drivers directly through Lyft and Uber… how many Nissans and Prius’s are already used for this primary purpose?

  2. Work vehicles. Rivian is already there with their pickup and delivery van. Another somewhat generic vehicle, the white pickup and van could be more important as more people become individual contractors. I’ve seen a moving service here called “2 guys and a van”… and it is what it is.

  3. Individual electrics for urban and central business districts. Electric scooters have had explosive growth but primarily in individual use rentals. Ironic that this is the vehicle that people are most comfortable accessing but not owning. Simultaneously electric assist bicycles have also been increasing in range and decreasing in cost. I could see a world where this becomes the highly personalized mode of transportation in US urban areas. Like Rome in the 560s or Bangalore and Taichung today.

Interesting concept! From personal experience, I’ve enjoyed using ZipCar although could have been a bit cheaper. The concept was nice that there was a car potentially parked a few streets over that I could get in a driveaway without having to go to some sort of big dealership and fill out a bunch of forms. Friends have also rented vans in this form when needing to move apartments too

Or travelling in European cities that have Lime EV scooters, it was a blast whizzing around the waterfront in Lisbon in one of those.

  1. Great video and song!
  2. I live in a nearby suburb of a dense NA city (Montreal). The first ten years here, I was in apartments and condos. The World Bank says that 55% of the world lives in an urban environment and that the rate is still climbing. The logical and practical solution is greater public transportation, which is why I think I think electric cars are a horrible solution for urban transportation. Because of the inherent poor energy density of batteries, the practical solution is to not save the electricity locally, but lay it down in a system and have the transportation use it. Of course, there are some wildly impractical “smart road” systems out there, but the best way is subways, street cars and trolleys. Fuel powered buses are also a good solution, as they can be deployed with no infrastructure.*
    Interesting number: Tesla’s market cap is $150 billion and the New York MTA’s budget is $16 billion. What if we could get $150 billion investment in public transportation across the biggest 10 cities in the US? I bet the environment would be far better off.
    I think the buzz around electric cars is fueled by guilt and old thinking. The guilt comes from us building a society around cheap fossil fuels and being to scared to pull the plug. Covid-19 proved something to me: I don’t have anywhere I need to go. I know all those people reserving their cruise ships disagree with me, but I think they are just buying the propaganda around our global tourism. The ‘old thinking’ comes from who really has the power of the purse: old guys. Old guys who have car collections and remember the glory days of GM. If only we just make them electric, it will succeed again! Poppy cock!
  3. I’m a total car guy. My dad was a ‘60s hot rodder from So. Cal. I grew up going to car shows. Like Yo though, I think that era is over. Cars have kinda been a victim of our own success. In the ‘60s, a car was expensive, but the labor to fix them was cheap. Now, car’s are cheap, but the labor to modify/fix them is expensive.
    I think the phone and accessories are the real successor today. Trendy people always ask me why I don’t have an iPhone, but no one ever asks why I drive a 20 year old rusty car.
    I never thought that this was the case, but I drive a 20 year old car because nothing newer is better enough to justify me changing it. I’ve driven newer cars, some that I’ve even put on my list of cars that I need to test drive. They are pretty much like my car, but heavier. Not faster, not more efficient, not more comfortable, just heavier (albeit, probably more reliable though).
  4. Car sharing. Similar to electric cars this is a solution looking for a problem. As an urban dweller, I rented cars and trucks when I needed them. Maybe Hertz just needs to rebrand and call themselves a “car sharer” and they’ll rise like a phoenix.

Further reading:
How Dar Es Salaam cut commute times by two hours: How an emerging African megacity cut commutes by two hours a day | Cities | The Guardian
Why public transportation works better outside the US (it’s buses) Bloomberg - Are you a robot?

PS: I think our cities will look like this after the electric car:

Near my office, there is a line of 4 street charging points. Almost every time I pass there is one out of order with a bunch of electric tape wrapped around a cable and another one with a fully extended cable laying haphazardly across the sidewalk and road. I expect it to be even worse when deployed at large.

Also, I talked to a local politician who was petitioning to get car charging points mandatory in the building code. I can totally see how this goes bad…

More on the Dyson car:

Intresting tid bits:

  1. James Dyson worked on the exterior design himself. Apparently, he and his team did one ugly design before bringing in some experienced car designers to give them some hints.

  2. Dyson killed the project because he believes that existing car makers will undercut him. This is because the EU has mandated a certain amount of 0 emissions cars. The existing makes can afford to sell electrics at or below cost to avoid paying fines, but an electric only make won’t be able to spread the cost out. It will be interesting to see how Tesla deals with this (although notable that Tesla has sold electric car rights to Fiat to avoid paying the penalties this year).