15 Automakers Elon Musk Could Have Bought Instead Of Twitter

15 Automakers Elon Musk Could Have Bought Instead Of Twitter

Musk spent $44 billion on Twitter, a company that makes zero cars. Here are the 15 biggest automakers he could've bought for less than that.

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Elon Musk stands in front of a Model S in 2009
It’s called fashion, sweaty
Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP (Getty Images)

Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, is always tough to predict. He runs Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, and now Twitter — but one of these things isn’t like the others. Sure, Musk has been a frequent Twitter user for years, but it’s the odd company out of his otherwise hardware engineering-focused portfolio. Was it really worth the $44 billion he spent?

What if he’d put that money towards something that fit his experience a bit more neatly? What if, say, he’d supplemented Tesla with another car company? If Elon Musk had spent $44 billion on acquiring another automaker, what could he have gotten?

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2 / 17

Chongqing Changan - $14.68 Billion

Chongqing Changan - $14.68 Billion

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Photo: JamesYoung8167, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

We’re starting off small, with the 25th-largest automaker in the world (by market cap, converted to USD). Of course, Chongqing Changan likely wouldn’t sell to Elon — it’s wholly owned by the Chinese government, though the car company is also listed on the Shenzen stock exchange. Don’t worry about it. We’re working under the assumption that if Elon has the money (ignoring any above-asking-price weed jokes), he can make the purchase.

Changan works with Ford and Mazda on cooperative designs, so Musk would even be at least somewhat familiar with the cars he’d suddenly be in charge of building. Given the company’s reputation as a longstanding business in China, it may even serve as a synergistic mix with Tesla in Beijing. Business folks love synergy.

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3 / 17

Suzuki Motor - $17.2 Billion

Suzuki Motor - $17.2 Billion

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Photo: Suzuki

We miss out on Suzuki’s cars over in the U.S., which is a damn shame. They’re cool, fun, quirky, and interesting — everything a Tesla could be, if it got the chance. Musk could learn a thing or two from Suzuki, and what better way to learn than by buying the company?

Suzuki is worth just under 2.5 trillion yen, which comes out to less than half of what Musk spent on a social network he claimed was full of bots and scammers. He could buy it twice, with about $10 billion left over afterwards, if you were wondering how tech companies are valued compared to companies that actually build a product.

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4 / 17

NIO - $18.53 Billion

NIO - $18.53 Billion

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Photo: NIO

That brings us to our first all-electric automaker on our list: NIO. NIO is gunning for Tesla’s luxury EV crown, with a broader product mix than Musk’s company — two sedans and four crossovers. A buyout from Elon may raise some antitrust flags, sure, but when has the SEC ever stopped him before?

NIO comes closer to the halfway mark on Twitter’s price than Suzuki, but Musk could still purchase both as a package deal and have billions to spare. Plus, investing in another EV brand would likely have gotten a better shareholder response than the Twitter deal has.

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5 / 17

Li Auto - $18.68 Billion

Li Auto - $18.68 Billion

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Photo: Evnerd, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Li Auto keeps us in China for two consecutive companies, and keeps us firmly planted in Musk’s startup sensibilities. Li was only listed in the NASDAQ two years ago, making it one of the newer car companies on the market. In that short time, it’s worked its way to a market cap of nearly $19 billion — not too shabby for a few years’ work.

Despite its relative recency, Li has delivered hundreds of thousands of range-extended EVs within China. Its sights are set higher, but what if those cars were branded with a Tesla ‘T’ instead? Would that help the brand skyrocket to success, or would the all-electric automaker going hybrid turn the faithful away?

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6 / 17

Lucid Motors - $18.98 Billion

Lucid Motors - $18.98 Billion

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Photo: Lucid

Here’s a fun thought experiment: Lucid is the luxury EV upstart, taking the fight to Tesla with its immaculate Air sedan. What if Tesla just... bought it? Just snapped up the competition in its crib, never giving it the chance to bloom?

Musk could, in theory. Sure, there would be antitrust considerations again, but it’s honestly entirely possible that they’d be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Tesla could have killed its greatest competition, but instead Musk decided to buy a website.

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7 / 17

Mahindra - $19.17 Billion

Mahindra - $19.17 Billion

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Photo: Mahindra

Elon, please. I’m speaking to you here directly, on a personal level. We kind of get the Mahindra Roxor in the U.S., in a nebulous not-street-legal-but-you-could-probably-get-away-with-it state. Of all people, you have the power to bribe the U.S. government into accepting it. Go back in time to before your Twitter purchase, and buy Mahindra instead.

After that, use your remaining $24.83 billion on lobbying. I don’t care if you need to carve out a DOT exception for the Roxor specifically, or if you ban every vehicle larger than its footprint. Please, just this once, use your powers for good. Give us the street-legal Roxor we deserve.

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8 / 17

Tata Motors - $19.6 Billion

Tata Motors - $19.6 Billion

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Photo: Matti Blume, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

If you visit Tata’s website right now, you’ll be presented with a lineup of three crossovers. Compact, midsize, that weird middle ground between midsize and full-size that consumers seem to love — all the major food groups are represented. But you, as a Jalopnik reader, will recognize something else: all three are brown.

This is a revelation. Elon Musk could have bought The Brown Car Company, The Company That Makes Brown Cars, God’s Perfect Car Color. He could have bought it twice, and then bought 253,565 Tata Safari SUVs. In brown. He elected not to do this, so clearly he is no Jalop.

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9 / 17

Kia - $19.69 Billion

Kia - $19.69 Billion

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Photo: Kia

Okay, now we’re getting into the big U.S. brands. You’re not likely to see a Tata dealer on your commute to work, but you may well see a Kia shop — or two, or three. Elon Musk lives on the SpaceX property, so he may not really see much on his commute, but maybe he’s caught a dealership while en route to his 12-hour days at Twitter. Clearly, if everyone else has to be in-office, he’s also making the drive, right?

Musk has, I’m sure, seen a Kia at some point in his life. Yet it apparently didn’t occur to him to purchase an entire operating, profitable, and global automaker with his $44 billion surplus. Kia makes some of the best-looking cars on the market today, but Musk didn’t even buy the company’s design group. Maybe they could make the Cybertruck look good.

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10 / 17

SAIC Motor - $23.69 Billion

SAIC Motor - $23.69 Billion

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Photo: Bilali6nj, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

SAIC is another state-owned Chinese manufacturer, and the current proprietor of the MG brand. It has deals with Volkswagen and GM, meaning it draws on global development for its domestic vehicles. All that knowledge, from across the world, funneling up into one single car company. Wouldn’t that be nice for Elon?

Imagine, a world where Tesla learns from SAIC. Where Model 3s fit together properly, where Model Xs don’t get constant updates to stop the doors from eating children. Buying SAIC would have given Musk an incredible knowledge base — the profitable car company would have been secondary.

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11 / 17

Rivian - $28.74 Billion

Rivian - $28.74 Billion

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Photo: Rivian

Look, Rivian’s not in the best place right now. Its vehicles, the R1S and R1T, are absolutely incredible driving experiences. But the management behind the scenes, the layoffs and restructuring, have soured people on the corporate structure behind that geometric badge. Surely Elon, the Man Who Can Fix Twitter, could help that too.

I mean, he clearly knows best, given that he spent millions above asking for a company that he is empirically not great at running. He must have other cards up his sleeve, more happening behind the scenes, secret irons in hidden fires. He can’t have just wasted $44 billion, an incomprehensible amount of money, right? Right?

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12 / 17

Great Wall Motors - $28.88 Billion

Great Wall Motors - $28.88 Billion

Image for article titled 15 Automakers Elon Musk Could Have Bought Instead Of Twitter
Photo: Outranger, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Unlike our previous Chinese automakers on this list, Great Wall is entirely privately run. It builds cars with names like “Wingle” and “Big Dog” and “Macchiato.” This is the kind of whimsy that Musk needs in his life, now that his manic pixie dream girl left him.

At $28.88 billion, it eats up a heftier chunk of Elon’s $44 billion budget than we’ve yet seen. But, can you really put a price on fun? On childlike wonder? On getting to walk into a board meeting, suit perfectly tailored and pressed, and say “Wingle” with a deadpan expression? Can Great Wall bring that car here, just so I can do that?

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13 / 17

Hyundai - $29.21 Billion

Hyundai - $29.21 Billion

Image for article titled 15 Automakers Elon Musk Could Have Bought Instead Of Twitter
Photo: Hyundai

Much like Kia before it, Hyundai has done incredible work recently by revitalizing its product line. Its N models, the Elantra and Kona and too-beautiful-for-this-world Veloster, have cemented the brand as a true performance bargain. Tesla, by contrast, is far from cheap.

Musk could have married these two, providing a less-expensive but more engaging entryway into his odd ecosystem of corporations. At under $30 billion, the money he saved over buying Twitter could have bought 1,848,750,000 months of Twitter Blue. That’s enough to blue-check every single user of Twitter for a very long time.

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14 / 17

Maruti Suzuki India - $33.24 Billion

Maruti Suzuki India - $33.24 Billion

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Photo: Aman Gupta, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Maruti Suzuki was once a state-run automaker, like so many of our Chinese entries on this list. It was eventually sold off to Suzuki, becoming Maruti Suzuki — another very fun string of syllables to pronounce. It also became a fantastic potential investment for Musk.

Maruti Suzuki opens up the Indian market for Musk’s projects, one of the largest populations on the globe. Tesla operates in the country, sure, but it lacks the scale of Maruti’s decades-running operation. A merger could change all of that.

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15 / 17

Ferrari - $39.05 Billion

Ferrari - $39.05 Billion

Image for article titled 15 Automakers Elon Musk Could Have Bought Instead Of Twitter
Photo: Ferrari

What if Elon just went wild with it? Ditched the EVs, went full my-girlfriend-left-me mid-life-crisis mode, and bought Ferrari? Yeah, your banker neighbor may have picked up a 360, but Musk could buy the whole company.

Doing so wouldn’t even cost him Twitter money, and his leftovers would buy him any horse-badged car he could imagine. Any combination, really, from the most youTube-bait wrecked 430 to the most pristine Brunei-bound one-off.

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16 / 17

Honda - $43.16 Billion

Honda - $43.16 Billion

Image for article titled 15 Automakers Elon Musk Could Have Bought Instead Of Twitter
Photo: Honda

Yeah. Honda. With the money Elon Musk spent on a social network, he could have purchased Honda. The company that builds the Civic, Accord, Integra, and Pilot. The company you see every single day of your life, outside your window or on your daily commute. That Honda.

Honda makes cars, trucks, SUVs, minivans, motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-sides, and, oh yeah, a jet. Twitter, by contrast, makes people angry. What’s a better way to spend forty-plus billion dollars? I have my pick.

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