Tesla hasn't really invented anything any more than Google invented the Internet. Tesla has simply taken factory automation to its logical conclusion. They've done this within a small niche, high-end cars that run on batteries, but it's a niche that can now be extended, down-market and worldwide.
While Tesla has focused on robotics, Toyota has been going the other way, building smaller, cheaper plants that are flexible and more driven by human energy, as Michel Baudin describes in detail on his blog.
It sets up a market battle where the small, American company is focused on low-cost, mass manufacture, while the gigantic Japanese company that has been using robots for 40 years goes the other way. Many investors, having seen the story of Google, think they know how to bet on that.
It will be fun to see if they're right. Watching the car market has suddenly become fun again.At the time of publication the author held GOOG. Follow @DanaBlankenhor This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.