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Everyone likely knows Tesla for its line of electric cars. But something that many Tesla fans also recognize the company for is the fact that it is a major disruptor in the auto industry.

Jim Hackett, the CEO of Ford, took offense to this, as he thinks that Ford was the original disruptor of the auto industry. So in a way, he thinks that Ford was the original Tesla. Not by making electric cars, but by disrupting the industry to a great extent. Here’s why he’s right.

What is disruption?

According to Forbes, disruption is simply when someone or something innovates an industry in a way that causes the industry to change considerably. An example of this would be Netflix. Before Netflix, everyone rented and bought movies from places like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. 

However, Netflix came up with the incredible idea of offering a large library of movies and TV shows to customers over the internet through a monthly subscription model. This disruption of the industry caused Blockbuster and Hollywood Video to collapse and movie studios to scramble to copy Netflix. 

This is exactly what Tesla has done with electric cars

How did Henry Ford disrupt the industry?

As Hackett pointed out in its interview with CNN, Henry Ford disrupted everything. His primary innovation was the assembly line and it improved things dramatically.

In 1913, other automakers would take 12 hours to make a car. Ford’s assembly line chopped that down to just 2.5 hours. This massive reduction in the amount of time it took Ford to make a car allowed Ford to not only produce more cars than anyone else but also lower its prices due to how many cars it had. 

Because of that, the number of cars on America’s roads skyrocketed from 200,000 in 1908 to 20,000,000 in 1927. Apparently, half of them being Ford’s Model T. This disruption of the auto industry led to a disruption in so many other aspects of American life that it’s impossible to cover them all. In essence, anything that needs a car probably came about because of Ford’s innovation. 

This disruption wasn’t just in America either. Founders of other country’s famous carmakers like France’s Louis Renault or Japan’s Kiichiro Toyoda visited Ford’s headquarters in Michigan so that they could learn from the automaker. With Ford’s help, they were able to spread the automotive revolution to their countries. And eventually, to the rest of the world.

So, while Tesla has sparked an electric car revolution, Ford’s disruption definitely happened earlier. Not to mention, it was as powerful and far-reaching as Tesla’s disruption.

The future of Ford

Unsurprisingly, Hackett is taking a page out of Ford’s playbook and he’s trying to disrupt the auto industry again. As mentioned in his interview with CNN, Tesla’s had problems with producing enough cars to meet consumer demand. Ford’s had decades of experience on the production side of things. Hackett plans to use that experience to Ford’s advantage. 

In addition to that, Hackett plans to use what he calls “design thinking” to try to create cars that consumers want. Design thinking does that by having the designers attempt to think as the consumers think, and then create solutions to problems that consumers may have before they even touch the car. 

And of course, Ford sees the writing on the wall and it’s created many electric and hybrid models of its cars. For example, recently Ford teamed up with Volkswagen to create new and innovative electric cars. Even more recently, Ford showed off its electric F-150 by having it tow over a million pounds of cargo in a stunt. 

It’s still too early to tell if Hackett’s disruption strategies have truly disrupted anything yet, but at least it’s clear that Ford disrupted the auto industry long before Elon Musk was even born.