Point of View

NZ Autocar - - Contents - david linklater

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.

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