There’s a phenomenon in, let’s call it the personal transportation community, that’s been brewing for some time. It’s tough to put into words, but I’ll put it this way;
Car enthusiasts don’t know what to do with Tesla people. We don’t know where they go.
It should be easy, right? Some people like old Camaros, or R32s, others like Porsches, or Jeeps. One person might even like the 1994 Buick LeSabre. We all like cars for the same reasons. We all know what to do with each other. Where does Tesla fit into that?
Rewind a bit. When the automobile was in it’s infancy, the idea was never to create a car powered specifically by internal combustion. We wanted to go from A to B faster, and we were tired of horses. The horses were tired too.
That’s all we wanted.
Steam cars were popular, electric cars were popular, how could anybody have predicted how much men and women ended up loving internal combustion? It really seems silly when you think about it. Car enthusiasts defending self-running air pumps, wearing t-shirts festooned with them. Arguing about them with veins popping out of their foreheads. An entire culture was created out of it. We all got sucked into it.
It may not be as celebrated as it once was. You don’t hear many popular songs with the lyrics; “She’s ported and relieved and she’s stroked and bored”. However, the fact that it’s shrinking makes the people still involved feel more tightly knit together. We all love the sounds, the smells, the way they look, and how they make us feel.
Then, somebody shows you a video of a Tesla Model S quietly beating an Aventador down a quarter mile. Yikes. Pretty quick for an iPhone.
All of a sudden, there is this feeling of invasion. How are you supposed to react to such a thing? The person showing you the video? You’ve never heard them mention the word ‘differential’, or ‘camshaft’, not even in passing! You probably don’t even have a problem with the car itself. However, you do have a problem with this devious person trying to oust you as a hapless Luddite.
All those hours you spent jetting a carburetor for a precious few horsepower? Wasted! Philistine! You should have known better!
But what do they know? Why are they showing you this? They don’t even know what a quarter mile time means! They’re not one of us! They don’t even go here!
It’s not even as if car enthusiasts don’t like electric cars, either. Look at the fierce internet rivalry between the Porsche Taycan, and… whatever Elon Musk brought to the Nurburgring. Who do you think car enthusiasts were rooting for? There’s dozens of companies who electrify classic cars, all of whom combustion car people don’t raise a finger to protest.
There’s plenty of car enthusiasts who like Teslas, lets make that clear. There’s also a group of people who never wanted any particular car, and now only want a Tesla. Not just any EV, a Tesla. I wouldn’t say those are car enthusiasts. They don’t want to talk about other cars.
I have driven a Tesla before. A mid-range Model 3 dual motor. I think that’s what it was. The fact that I don’t really know which one it was sort of highlights how I feel about it. But, what did it feel like?
It felt like you were in second gear pretty much all the time, and of course, didn’t make any noise. It didn’t just keep pulling forever though, it ran out of steam reasonably quickly. You could, however, have that instant response and torque whenever you wanted. That is pretty cool. Car people like speed. However, if speed was the single most important thing to us, we would all be buying Teslas, and we aren’t.
The steering isn’t completely dead, but it’s pretty dead. The brakes felt fine, and you can drive without using them sometimes, thanks to the regen. It cornered flat, and the ride was pretty similar to a stock F30 or E90 3 series. Instead of a formal traction control setting, it has ‘slip start’. Make of that what you will.
The interior is absolutely cost-cutting masquerading as minimalism. The amount of money they saved on contracting or tooling up to make a whole new interior is not trivial. Just putting it all on a screen? That’s money in the bank. They save tremendous time on manufacturing and development. If it isn’t 100%? Send out an update over the air, no problem. It’s smart.
So the interior has barely any buttons. Does that mean it’s bad? No. It does everything you want it to do, it just has no tactility at all. Since everything is done through this big screen, it feels like you’re using big smartphone. You make the same typos you would when you’re trying to send an email walking down a busy street.
The owner of the Model 3 that I drove has repeatedly told me he is now tired of engine noise. He finds it awkward and archaic. You can see what he’s saying too. Getting in a Tesla to go somewhere is a much more streamlined experience. You have to do a lot less. There’s far less sensory feedback. There’s no noise or vibrations, no buttons, no smells, sometimes you may not even have to drive.
What enthusiasts like about cars are all sensory things that you cannot actually quantify. It’s how we feel about them. How do you argue with somebody who is enthusiastic about a vehicle that gets rid of nearly all of that?
I don’t think you do. Everybody who ever wanted just ‘a thing to take them places’ should get one. Everybody who doesn’t? They wont. Tesla people and ‘those like us’ who enjoy internal combustion often aren’t like-minded people anyway. We’re just going to drift further and further apart, until one day, nobody will show you another video of a Tesla under the lights.
By that time, they’ll have realized you’re one of those crazy, stinky, dirty people. They will look on in shock as you and your friends are waving tools around like wild animals, nearly setting fire to each other on a regular basis. They will be confused. It appears you want as much twisted fun as possible during the slow process of succumbing to a mental illness.
You, they will realize, are not worthy of the gospel, and not worth their time.
I think we’ll both be pleased with that.