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Detroit Auto Show: Tesla and GM in race for an affordable electric car

The emergence of Tesla Motors as America’s fourth domestic automaker — a feat once viewed by the Detroit Three as practically implausible — poses a threat to the industry’s entrenched mind-set.

With Tesla’s Model S cornering the market for luxury electric sedans — a stunning achievement for a new company in a capital-intensive business — the automaker finds itself in direct competition with General Motors and other automakers for the real prize: an affordable electric vehicle for the masses.

It’s a showdown with dizzying differences in culture, history and dynamics.

On one side is the Silicon Valley electric vehicle maker’s blustery ringleader, Elon Musk, who makes the flamboyant executives of the auto industry’s past look like by-the-script bureaucrats.

On the other side is the world’s second-largest automaker, GM, and its recently reshuffled executive team, which must maintain the company’s recent streak of strong products while continuing to shake up its legendary bureaucracy.
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