Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. – President John F. Kennedy
Tesla is having a rough week. For some reason or another (mostly trim pieces), a whole bunch of people who are anti-progress have decided to post their opinions on how unreliable Tesla is as a brand. One man posted a twenty-five-minute video on the YouTubes about how some bits weren’t aligned just so. On his mass-produced vehicle. Jalopnik — the former home of entertaining automotive content, now housing nothing but click-bait drivel* written mostly by its readers — posted a 645-word review of said video. Consumer Reports has spent the better part of the last three years bashing the Tesla range for its low reliability and doesn’t seem interested in letting go of its beliefs. GT Nation, which is supposedly about The Grand Tour and its presenters, expelled a slightly over joyous bit of sputum over the latest CR reliability report, glossing over the bit where only a small amount of claims were mechanical or were actual claims.
The worst part though were the comments towards all of these posts, which were more than a little negative. There are some among us who view Tesla as the work of Satan. They wish for nothing less than the death of everyone who builds, sells, or owns such a machine. Given the opportunity, they would eat Elon Musk. These spiteful, vile creatures do a small jig on their mother’s sofa every time a report comes along of a panel gap being too large on a Model S sold in Tampa. They then run to the internet and shout about how poorly made these things are. Much like White House staffers do when the President strings a coherent sentence together, these unhappy internet trolls respond with tremendous joy and sing out in choir “Hallelujah!” anytime a Model X dome-light flickers in Alberta.
It’s almost easy to understand what they are on about, though. If the complaint is that a hundred-thousand-dollar vehicle has issues with the trim pieces falling off, or panel gaps that allow many weathers into the cabin, then yes, that’s fair. That would annoy anyone in a ten-thousand dollar car, let alone those an order of magnitude more important. And to some degree this is the main complaint about Tesla, the finish quality is substandard when compared to an S-Class or 7-Series or any other six-figure vehicle. Whether or not comparing a car company that has been around for a decade to another that has been around for more than a century is considered fair, is debatable. However, I do think it is a better comparison than price alone. Expecting that a company produce nothing but the best only drives that company — and its competitors— to do just that.
Tesla isn’t an ordinary car company. It isn’t a normal anything company. Tesla is attempting to do something that the other well-established brands haven’t even tried. Plus go to space, and make batteries that power your house, and solar tiles that replace your roof, and so on. Yes, there are a few other fully electric cars for sale, but they are miserable things that aren’t very good at all. They are also small fractions of their parent companies portfolio. If the Leaf had been a sales disaster, Nissan would have gone on doing as they have for decades. The same goes for Chevy, VW, BMW, and everyone else that makes an electrically driven car. They all have billions of other models to make the investors happy and global economies stable. They haven’t made an effort to push the envelope. Tesla, meanwhile, is run by a madman who made a billion dollars and immediately threw half of it into space. They handle all parts of design, assembly, sales, and distribution; running mostly on a lunatic genius’ pension. They innovate. But they innovate to make actual strides towards where the motoring world will actually be a decade from now. And I’m sorry, but if we have to go with electric, self-driving cars I’d much rather they look and go like the Model 3 than the Chevy Bolt.
Astute readers will notice that I’ve included a quote from JFK at the beginning of this, erm… article? While it is nicked from a speech given at some Ivy League school, and is about economics, I feel that it applies neatly to the point I’m trying to make. We can‘t hold on to what a car has been for the last hundred years only to lose what it could be for the next. We need nutters with big ideas and bigger bank accounts to obliterate the envelope with their disdain for entrenched thought. Enzo, Henry, Horacio, Ferruccio, Christian, and Bruce. All of these men were proper lunatics. They looked at what was around and said all of this is rubbish. So they went into a shed and produced the most wonderful things money could and can buy. All of them would have a Tesla. Enzo would probably just sit in it in an underground bunker so as to not be seen in a non-Ferrari, and Horacio would have his made out of saffron, but they would have one none the less.
All of these legends would all have a Tesla because Telsas are interesting. They have their drawbacks and they aren’t quite as good as other cars that cost as much. But none of that matters. They force you to have a look, not just at the car, but at yourself. You have to ask yourself (and everyone has, don’t lie…); I wonder what that’s like to drive? No one has ever had such a thought about a Corolla, or a Malibu. Those are things you rent on a business trip to Iowa. And maybe, it‘s the fact that the Tesla makes you question your prefabricated set of interpretations that turns people off and makes their teeth fall out with rage. There‘s just too much discomfort in thinking.
*With the exception of Stef Schrader, Alanis King, and Tom McParland. They are brilliant.