When everyone says you’re special it pays to be skeptical. Sadly, no one has leveled this advice at Tesla (and Twitter) CEO Elon Musk.
Musk, who made his money getting lucky in the early days of eBay, also got lucky with Tesla. He bought a good idea, commercialized it, and added enough geek sweetness to convince thousands of VCs and CTOs that having door handles that popped out like engorged robotic sex organs was a good thing. The result? A car that, for a long time, looked futuristic and now looks about as interesting – and desirable – as a broken-down DeLorean.
Why am I so sure I’ll get an EV after my current Honda C-RV bites the dust? We are at a crossroads when it comes to vehicle technology. I recall a conversation I had with a friend in 2008 or so. I had been shooting with digital cameras for a few years by then and at the time I had a digital Canon Rebel, an entry-level camera. He had just bought a 35mm Rebel and showed it to me.
“You need to swap that out. Doesn’t make any sense,” I said.
He was adamant but agreed: “This will be the last film camera I own.”
A few weeks later he returned it and got a digital Rebel. The tidal wave was overwhelming and there was no sense in standing in front of it. Digital took over film just as electric will take over gas.
But Musk doesn’t just make cars. He also pisses people off.
Musk is a troll. His ostensible mission as CEO is to make money yet he can’t help himself from destroying all value his company holds. He could easily sit back, count his wealth, impregnate his assistants, and shut up. Instead, he does all that but he does it loudly.
Further, his cars are now passe. Based on a model of cool that presupposes that the height of luxury ended with the fit and finish of a higher-end Altima built in 2018, the cars are currently bog standard. The next crop of electrics from companies like Ford, VW, Honda, Toyota, and, well, literally everyone else will have the benefit of decades of consumer research and a deep understanding of car culture. Teslas were built for programmers. Stuff like VW’s ID. Buzz was built for normal people.
Musk loves the ability to change the world’s temperature. He’s convinced an army of young men – and it’s always men – that he will pull them out of penury by hiring them at his poorly managed and weirdly intense businesses. He’s convinced Right-Wingers that he cares about them and their ability to communicate when, in the end, that’s a troll too. And he’s convinced the world that what he says matters. Hell, I just wrote a few hundred words on him for no reason other than to call him out in a medium that he won’t notice and will only get me hassled.
So that’s the long and the short of it: the future is in EV. Most of our cars in the next decade will be EVs. But they won’t be Teslas. Tesla will sell to some massive car company at a loss and the world’s favorite bad boy, Musk, will end up on the dole.
A guy can dream.