This piece was originally published in the Wall Street Journal.
After many grueling nights designing and building a car in “makeshift tents,” Elon Musk emerged with a prescient lesson for Tesla. “The issue is not about coming up with a car design—it’s absolutely about the production system,” Mr. Musk said in 2019, during the unveiling of the car maker’s SUV, the Model Y. “You want to have a good product to build, but that’s basically the easy part. The factory is the hard part.”
Mr. Musk wanted to take vertical integration—or control over the supply chain—to what he’s since called “absurd” heights. His business philosophy was decisive. In February 2022, the federal government announced that supply-chain issues meant that American manufacturers had five days’ worth of chips in their inventories—an emergency shortage compared to their 40-day supplies three years earlier.
The disaster speaks to the need to rebuild manufacturing at home, argue co-authors Asutosh Padhi, Gaurav Batra and Nick Santhanam in their fluid, digestible and timely book, “The Titanium Economy: How Industrial Technology Can Create a Better, Faster, Stronger America.” The book’s premise is that “we are capable of producing a thousand companies akin to Tesla in every industry.” The authors write: “Part of what Musk understood—something that has also been embraced by other industrial leaders—is that the core of the American spirit is about controlling one’s destiny.”
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