x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The Air Bag: Celebrating the risk-taking motoring entrepreneurs

In the car business, with so many large corporations, it's refreshing to see someone take a risk with something new; they bring excitement to a sometimes staid industry.

Since the invention of the motorised carriage in the late 19th century, the auto industry has been littered with both grand ideas and broken dreams.

Countless companies - and personal fortunes to go along with them - have fallen by the wayside because of stagnation, competition and outright ineptitude; the list of failures is almost endless, but it also includes big names such as Duesenberg, Packard, Triumph and Austin.

But behind all big failures is a grand idea, and grand ideas almost invariably come from grand personalities, and in this issue we have not one but two: Bruce Meyers and John DeLorean, two men who lived and dreamed larger than life. And they, like most other big dreamers in the car industry, should be remembered not for their failings but for their daring.

There's not enough of that today, don't you think? The big corporations may take a chance now and again on some strange design or interesting technology, but they have billions of dollars to fall back on in case an idea doesn't turn out the way they hoped. Plus, they have shareholders to satisfy, people more interested in making a buck than pushing the envelope. No, in this edition of The Air Bag, we are going to celebrate those idealists, inventors and thinkers who dared to make their dreams a reality, and lost.

Where would we be without them? In the early days of the automobile, that's all there was; there was no big corporation to suddenly start building cars. It took guys with guts who tinkered and took chances, mavericks who thought outside of the box and tried to find different ways to do things, and then made them happen. Mercedes, General Motors, Porsche, Toyota - all started off in the proverbial garden shed, and they found great success. But others weren't so fortunate; many, many other companies have folded through the years. In fact, when was the last great car company started that has lasted and flourished? Decades, at least.

But the spirit isn't entirely dead; today, we have smaller companies, such as Fisker and Tesla, that have found a modicum of success and, not coincidentally, both are led by larger-than-life characters: Henrik Fisker was a designer for BMW and Aston Martin before branching out on his own and Elon Musk, of Tesla, is a dot-com millionaire who also dabbles in private space flight. What both have is not just talent, but drive, the drive to succeed and take risk. Both men have invested millions of dollars of their own money and found other investors that share their visions; history will tell whether either man will succeed.

In this business, with so many large corporations running the show, it's refreshing to see someone take a risk with something new; usually, it's these people that make the biggest splashes, the most stunning innovations, the most novel technology. They bring excitement to a sometimes staid industry.

To find success, you have to take a risk. For some, the risk of failure is too great to take that next step but, for others, the chance at success is too alluring to avoid. I wish there were more people like that nowadays.