Elon Musk and Donald Trump suddenly have an awkward alignment that 'really seemed to sneak up on people'

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It’s not an exaggeration to say that Elon Musk and Donald Trump have the most diametrically different brains on the planet.
Certainly, they also differ widely in their views of a hot button political issue — climate change.

The Tesla CEO is the world’s most prominent proponent of using innovation to do something about global warming, while the president-elect is from a camp that maintains that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

But with the opening Wednesday of Tesla’s battery manufacturing factory in Nevada, Musk has suddenly wound up with a “surprising alignment of interests with the new presidential administration,” says Morgan Stanley lead auto analyst Adam Jonas.

Jonas, one of the most strident Tesla bulls on Wall Street, made the comment in a research note in which he assessed the Gigafactory’s opening and also reiterated his view that the company’s Model 3 mass-market vehicle won’t launch on schedule at the end of 2017.

“This really seemed to sneak up on people,” he added.

Of course it did — until you think about where the two line up: Tesla a high-tech domestic hiring machine.

Here’s Jonas again, writing about the Nevada plant:

As the bus drove up to the massive plant yesterday morning, one could not help but notice the hundreds of cars in the parking lot from the construction crew (yes, roughly 1/2 of the vehicles were pickup trucks), part of 2,100 construction workers running 2 shifts per day. To the extent that the creation of high tech manufacturing jobs in the United States is a priority of the incoming administration, we believe Mr. Musk might have some interests that could be very much in alignment with those of President-elect Trump.

Old vs. new manufacturing

It’s worth pointing out that the Obama administration was also very supportive of high-tech manufacturing and it’s unclear whether all US manufacturing jobs are equal in the eyes of Trump and the GOP. And don’t forget that constructing Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory involves old-school labour, while the manufacturing of battery cells inside could eventually be almost completely automated.

But Jonas is on to something by highlighting what could be an unexpected and potentially awkward shared interest with Trump and Musk. The Tesla CEO did, after all, make the pilgrimage to Trump Tower, along with the rest of the Silicon Valley tech elite.

However, all of Musk’s companies require a type of government support that’s futuristic rather than retro. Electric cars are a threat to the oil business. Solar power (Tesla just acquired SolarCity) has benefitted from government subsidies to gain a foothold against traditional grid electricity, provided by burning coal and natural gas. SpaceX has NASA as its biggest customer.

Musk is a shining example of a businessperson who’s making America great now. It remains to be seen if Trump can digest that reality and come to terms with how that reality has been achieved.

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