Tesla’s co-founder Martin Eberhard hasn’t spoken to Elon Musk in 14 years, warns other EV startups not to try to be like Tesla

Martin Eberhard courtesy of Getty

Tesla is the world’s biggest EV maker by far, which might tempt other EV startups to emulate its successes as they struggle to gain a foothold in the industry. However, Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard has advised them to do the opposite.

Eberhard thinks too many EV makers are caught up in the race to beat Tesla, which would only result in failure. Speaking to Insider, Eberhard said, “My advice to anybody who wants to get into the EV space now is don’t try to compete head-on with Tesla. Don’t make the exact same model.”

Eberhard singled out Lucid Motors, which he accused of competing directly with Tesla’s Model S with its Lucid Air sedan.

It is not unnatural for Lucid to operate similarly to Tesla. Many of the employees formerly worked at Tesla, including CEO Peter Rawlinson. Even Eberhard worked there when it was still named Atieva but left after only six weeks because of differences with the CEO, he explained. However, a Lucid representative disagreed with Eberhard on characterizing the Air as a copy of the Model S. They said the Air is a “new benchmark for EV sports sedans.”

Eberhard urges EV makers to explore other vehicle categories, “There’s different kinds of cars for different market segments. From the beginning, everybody at Tesla knew that, eventually, the auto industry would catch up with them and they would be competing against a bunch of other car companies.”

He added: “The world has supported more than a dozen successful large car companies for generations. I don’t see that changing.” Eberhard was enthusiastic about Rivian, another EV startup that pursued the electric pickup truck segment.

Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded Tesla in 2003 before Elon Musk joined. He left the company four years later after being ousted by the board, which was presented with evidence of deception and fraud during his tenure.

Musk is no fan of Eberhard, and the two haven’t spoken in 14 years according to Eberhard. That likely won’t change any time soon as Musk has not been shy to show his dislike for Eberhard, calling him “by far the worst person I’ve ever worked with in my entire career,” and saying that he almost sunk Tesla in the early days “through a combination of bad management decisions, driving out talented people, bad engineering, major blunders in supply chain & an elaborate deception about the true cost & schedule of the Tesla Roadster.”