Point of View
Ihave never driven a Tesla of any kind and I would absolutely love to, for both curiosity-satisfying and boxticking reasons. But that’s not important right now. What’s important is that I have some very strong views about Tesla, despite my complete lack of first-hand knowledge of the product. No, that doesn’t make any sense and yes, it’s probably evidence of an extreme level of arrogance on my part. But let’s press on.
I think Tesla is the automotive equivalent of Apple and I don’t mean that in a nice way. It’s the ultimate automotive branding exercise and you (well, I) have to both admire and loathe that. Like Apple.
Admire because I’m yet to meet any non-automotive professional who doesn’t think that Tesla is the Best Thing Ever. That’s singular, because although the company makes more than one car, it seems to be regarded as one magnificent entity, identifiable by just one name. Like Apple.
If you talk about the new Crown limousine fleet of BMW 7-series sedans, people just say we should be running Teslas. If you talk about the woeful lack of electric-car charging infrastructure in New Zealand, people agree because it’s obviously the thing that’s holding back the introduction of Tesla. Indeed, if you talk about a budgetpriced Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), people say yes that’s nice but they’d rather have a Tesla.
This overwhelming preference for Tesla seems to be based on nothing much at all beyond the knowledge that everything Tesla is good.
Look at the parallels with Apple. Both companies are the brainchild of a visionary-slash-genius who may or may not have had aspirations towards world domination and stealing the moon.
Both brands represent a fresh start in the market: a clean-sheet alternative to established makers that makes them enormously appealing to people who want to present as early adopters (long irrelevant for Apple because everybody has an iPhone, but that doesn’t stop them being objects of extreme desire).
Both companies make products that do what lots of other products do, but refined to a high sheen of ease-of-use and extra smugness.
People are prepared to pay a great deal more for these products and truly believe that the high price is justified. Because of the brand. It’s genius, really. Admire and loathe.
Here’s a snippet of an actual conversation I had recently.
“I can’t wait until we can get proper electric cars here. I really think it’s what I’d like to drive.”
“Well, you can actually get them now. There’s the Nissan Leaf or the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. You can plug those in.”
“No, I mean really cool electric cars.”
Okay, well Audi does the A3 e-tron or BMW’s i3 is pretty futuristic.” “No, I mean I want a Tesla.” Blind faith is a weird and wonderful thing and yes, I do think Apple and Tesla people sometimes err on the side of religious fanaticism. Because everything their brand or god does is right, for no other reason than their brand or god has done it.
I’m starting to sound bitter and jealous and there’s probably some truth in that. I should be glad: consumer durables that make people happy for not-entirely-rational reasons are what keeps the automotive business moving and (more to the point) keeps people like me in work.
And yes, I’m also naturally jealous of people who can afford to buy a Tesla of any kind. Because if I had that kind of money I could buy that Porsche I’ve always wanted. Any kind of Porsche will do.