I love my Tesla cars. But Telsa CEO Elon Musk has become increasingly unhinged of late, and I have serious problems with him. What to do?
Maybe some “I love Tesla, I hate Elon” swag would make us Tesla owners feel better.
How did this happen? Here’s the story.
Teslas are terrific cars
I bought a Tesla Model 3 in 2018. It was my second electric car (I’d had a Nissan LEAF), so I already had a home charger. Fully electric cars are better, and Tesla is the best.
Here’s what makes Tesla better.
- There is practically no maintenance. Gas cars (and hybrids) require regular oil changes, fluid replacement, and maintenance on cooling systems, transmissions, and exhaust systems. Electric cars need none of that. While you still have to maintain wipers and check the tires and brakes, there’s hardly any reason to go to the dealer. In four years, I had a faulty sensor and suspension that developed squeaks (both fixed free) and put new tires on it, for a total cost of less than $1200. How much did you pay to maintain your car for the last four years?
- Fuel costs are very low. You can recharge a Tesla at a public charger, adding 250 miles of charge for less than $20. And if you have a home charger, it’s even cheaper. By comparison, owners of gas-powered cars that get $15 per gallon are currently paying $83 for 250 miles. Even when gas prices go back down, electric charging will remain way cheaper.
- The experience is excellent. There is no need for a key; the car recognizes your mobile phone and unlocks when you walk up, then locks again when you walk away. You control everything from opening the trunk to navigation to the radio from a single 17-inch center console screen. The backup camera display is huge. When driving, part of the display shows the cars around you, including your blind spot, and the Tesla warns you and saves you if the car in front of you suddenly stops or you’re about to sideswipe somebody in the next lane. I didn’t pay extra for “full self driving;” I don’t trust it and don’t need it when regular driving is effortless, safe, and easy.
- It handles well. The car has a low center of gravity, because the whole bottom of the car is a heavy battery. Computers controlling the wheels independently mean great handling, even in the snow. As in any electric car, there is not the slightest hesitation when you step on the accelerator; you can zip ahead powerfully and instantly.
- There’s lots of room. Although it’s relatively small on the outside, extra storage under the hood (the “frunk”) and in a deep well between the rear wheels allow you to store far more than you’d think. I recently went on a week-long trip to Vermont with my wife; I easily fit a bicycle, luggage for each of us, and a bunch of bulky art supplies inside the car.
- There were subsidies to buy it. I saved over $3,000 in taxes and rebates based on federal and state subsidies. (Those subsidies are no longer available; Tesla has sold too many cars for customers to qualify now.)
- Range is not an issue. If you have a gas car, you’re used to having gas stations everywhere, so you don’t worry about range. But I don’t worry, either. My Model 3’s range is over 200 miles when fully charged. Before a trip, I charge overnight in my garage so I can leave fully charged. And there are Tesla chargers all over. I’ve driven from Boston to Philly and from Portland, Maine to Stowe, Vermont with plenty of superchargers on the way and no problems; I could drive to Canada if I wanted to. Charging is effortless: you just pull up to a supercharger and plug in, and Tesla recognizes your car and bills your credit card. I’ve never had to wait for a charger; in fact, the console navigation displays how many chargers are free at each location near you. It takes about 20 minutes to charge to 80% capacity, and all the chargers are co-located with public bathrooms, restaurants, and convenience stores, so if you plan your stops to coincide with breaks you need anyway, you waste little time.
- It’s better for the environment. Yes, there is a need to generate the electricity that you are using, sometimes with fossil fuels. And yes, mining lithium for batteries has an environmental impact. But it’s still far more efficient to get electricity that’s generated centrally by a utility than to refine, transport, and dispense liquid fuel and burn it in the car.
For all of these reasons, when it came time to get a second car for my family, I signed up to get a Tesla Model Y, which looks a lot like a slightly larger Model 3. The Model Y is nominally an SUV; it has even more space inside, which we need for my wife’s art projects. And it has an even longer range than the Model 3, over 300 miles. Due to supply issues, it took 8 months from when we signed up to get the Model Y to the date we could pick it up, but I was not in a rush so that was fine with me.
The problem with Elon Musk
As terrific as the Tesla car is, the guy running the Tesla company (as well as SpaceX) is a menace. I’m certainly not the first Tesla owner to have problems with Elon Musk.
He’s always been a little unhinged. But he’s gotten a lot worse in the last year — coincidentally the time period when I was waiting to pick up my latest car. He’s clearly an attention junkie.
Amongst Musk’s sins, he:
- Told people worried about coronavirus in 2020 that they were dumb and that the virus would be basically gone a month later.
- Reopened a Tesla manufacturing plant in the heart of the pandemic, leading to hundreds of COVID cases among workers.
- Compared Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler.
- Tweeted dumb, sexist jokes.
- Ridiculed trans people for telling others what pronouns they prefer.
- Says he’ll let insults run rampant after he buys Twitter, which will turn it into a cesspool.
- Stands accused of sexual harassment.
- Fired 10% of his Tesla workforce with no details or justification.
- Implied that the guy rescuing students trapped in a cave in Thailand was a pedophile.
- Announced he’d cut stock options if Tesla workers unionized.
- Said that Democrats are the party of division and hate, and that his preferred candidate in 2024 would be Florida governor Ron DeSantis, whose administration has passed the “don’t say gay” legislation and rejected math books for critical race theory.
- Fired SpaceX employees for calling for stronger anti-harassment policies at the company.
Depending on your politics, you might like or loathe some of these stances. But a lot of people, myself included, find them offensive. Taken as a whole, Musk’s public persona is mean, vindictive, sexist, prejudiced, juvenile, and irrational. Much like the worst politicians of our era, he’s taken his platform as the world’s richest man and used it to demonstrate the opposite of thoughtful intelligence. We’re used to rich people and business leaders like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett, who at least seemed thoughtful and prudent in the way they communicated. Musk seems unpredictable and nasty.
The knee jerk reaction to Musk’s behavior is to boycott Tesla. After all, if you drive a Tesla, your car is a symbol of the feckless craziness of this man-child.
Or is it?
Tesla is a product of over 100,000 employees. The design folks are clearly operating on a different level from most carmakers, and pushing forward the design, not just of cars, but of everything else in a thrilling and positive direction. Nobody has ramped up a new car company this quickly; the manufacturing is a miracle. The sales and service employees I’ve dealt with have been excellent. The direct sales model has upended the traditional dealer sales channel, with its anxiety-inducing negotiations, hidden after-sales costs, “I need to check with the manager” shenanigans, and overpriced after-sales service and repairs.
The supercharger network and the popular Tesla cars are dragging the whole automotive industry into an electrified future that’s a big help in saving the planet from greenhouse emissions. Yes, the Ford F-150 Lightning pickup is an amazing vehicle. But would it even exist — would any of the raft of electric cars now coming out exist — if Tesla hadn’t sold so many cars?
Why should I boycott that just because Elon Musk is an asshole? To signal my purity and virtue? Screw that! It’s a damn nice car and the car is directly in line with my values, even if Elon Musk is not. Am I supposed to give up on a car I waited 8 months for, and sell my other car, just because some dude at the top threw a tantrum?
In any case, the whole boycott movement leads only to madness. Every business has flaws. Volkswagen faked emissions tests — should we boycott it? Nissan’s former CEO Carlos Ghosn is on the lam for accounting fraud. Ford supplied Nazi Germany — what’s the statute of limitations on that?
Stick this on the back of your Tesla — or on your head
I’m nothing if not a problem-solver.
So if you own (or hope to own) a Tesla but deplore Elon Musk, I have a solution for you.
For $2.78 plus shipping you can put a bumper sticker on your car.
For $25, you can get a baseball cap.
And for less than $50, you can get the “I love Tesla, I hate Elon” hoodie.
Now you can have a great car and signal your virtue at an affordable price.
I saw a need and created a product to fill it. Just like Tesla did.