No. 919
October 18, 2017
 

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Autoextremist.com, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  witchhuntbook.com). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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Tuesday
Aug012017

THE GREATEST PR SHOW ON EARTH.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. Trying to wade through another hurricane of hyperbole generated by Tesla, this time over the “soft” rollout of the Model 3 was almost too much to bear last week. I have never read more unmitigated bullshit in my life, whereupon actual adults who should know better regurgitated more superlatives in a single sitting about a car that has some seriously questionable issues – at best - than I thought even possible.

You have to understand that The Cult of Elon perfectly mirrors everything going on in the bountiful confines of Silicon Valley right now. The New Masters of the Universe love to gorge on superlatives, and Musk is one of the self-appointed Ringmasters, all puffed up with enough arrogance and hubris to last a lifetime, actually several lifetimes. So much so that his acolytes almost wet themselves every time he deigns to utter one of his pronouncements.

And the Model 3 is his latest rolling pronouncement. It’s the car that will finally bury Detroit. The car that is so forward thinking that if you’re not on board with “the movement” you will not only be hopelessly out of touch, you will be deemed as being expendable and inconsequential. And even worse, you will be denied access to The Enlightenment, the secret sect made up of the sniveling followers who call themselves “Muskians” – reports that they chant “Yesla! Yesla! Yesla!” in private have not been confirmed – and who are granted an occasional up-close glimpse of their Master and allowed moments – albeit fleeting – to bask in his brilliance, so that they then go off and weep quietly in the corner, unable to handle the thrill of it all.

To the Muskians – and many of the “journalists” in attendance at the Model 3 announcement party were, in fact, card-carrying members of the sect – the Model 3 was so breathtaking that normal words were just incapable of conveying its brilliance. “Oooooh, but it’s a premium car!” seemed to be the common refrain among the Muskian apologists who covered the event. Wow, really? I imagine Horse and Hound was there, given that seemingly every two-bit, addle-brained “lifestyle” journalist spent most of their time regurgitating the hype handed out by the Tesla PR minions word for word. In fact, there were so many breathless superlatives being bandied about that I lost track of them. You had to have a strong constitution to stomach the gushing “reporting” that went on about the event, about the car, and, of course, about The Genius his own self, who is really what all of this was about. And I won’t even bother to get into the verbal stupidity unleashed in the comment sections of virtually every article published about the Model 3. It was so disgustingly abhorrent and illogical, it’s clear that everyone got hit in the forehead with a 2x4 and was summarily robbed of all rational thought.

But let’s review, shall we? 1. In reality the Model 3 will cost a good $15,000 more (at least) than the originally projected $35,000 MSRP because of well, you know, the necessary add-ons (long-range battery, $9,000; nicer interior, $5,000; any color other than black, $1,000, etc.). Because it’s Elon, however, it’s not “bait and switch.” Oh no, it’s “allure and ascend.” As in, if you want to be allowed to ascend into The Enlightenment and bask in the glow, you have to fork over more cash. Capisce?

2. After the 30 Tesla insiders get the first cars, the Model 3 won’t be available in any sort of volume until sometime in 2018. But let’s be very clear about this one very significant point: Tesla has demonstrated – emphatically so, I might add – that they are serially incapable of building cars with quality at any sort of production pace that’s worth noting. And yet The Master insists that they will be punching out 500,000 Model 3s per year in no time. As if. There is no conceivable scenario extant where this will actually happen. The Muskians may not care about the projected volumes, but real people do, and the notion that this company, which can barely crank out the model lineup it has, will all of a sudden flip a switch and be cranking out a half a million cars with competitive quality levels is simply absurd and unimaginable.

3. There’s the little thing about the government tax subsidy running out before buyers can even get the Tesla 3, as in, oops. And 4. Even if Musk could build 500,000 Model 3s a year – don’t worry, he can’t – the fundamental lack of dealers will paralyze the entire operation.

So there you have it, folks. The short story of the Model 3? At least the one that was spun by The Cult of Elon? It’s transformative. It’s magic. It’s so much more than a car, and so much more than anything else that even resembles a car that it will change your life. For good.

No, I will tell you what the Model 3 is. It’s a testament to the fact that “Detroit” – aka the U.S. auto industry – collectively lost the PR war a long, long time ago. I wrote about this in my book Witch Hunt, which chronicled the bailout and subsequent bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler. Remember those Senate hearings when the CEOs of what used to be known as the “Big Three” were bludgeoned for hours? The recurring theme was that Detroit built crappy cars, the CEOs were stupid and the whole damn enterprise was collectively an embarrassment. I distinctly remember one Mitch McConnell piling on the CEOs and the U.S. automobile industry for being incompetent and worse in a withering display. The High-Octane Truth? Less than eighteen months before, that same Mitch McConnell was in Detroit with his hand out at a dinner organized on his behalf asking for, you guessed it, donations from the automobile companies. (But then again, if I were to go after the practicing scumbags in Washington we’d be here all frickin’ day.)

The point is that the lingering hangover from those hearings and the pain of the subsequent bankruptcies has never gone away. It doesn’t matter that Detroit is part of the industrial fabric of this nation. It doesn’t matter that Detroit was essential in creating the “Arsenal of Democracy.” It doesn’t matter that the auto industry based here has been one of this country’s leading technological centers and still is right now (something that Silicon Valley has found out the hard way). It doesn’t matter that the U.S. auto industry (for the most part) is building the best cars in its history, some truly outstanding machines, in fact. What matters is that for a burgeoning group of consumers in this country – led around by the nose by the card-carrying Muskians in the media – the U.S. auto industry is inconsequential. And worse, it simply isn’t cool.

We have arrived at a point where everything about Tesla = Good. And everything about Detroit = Irrelevant. It doesn’t matter that The Cult of Elon has robbed people of all rational thought. It doesn’t matter that for many Tesla owners the reality of ownership has them mired in a quagmire of mediocrity and poor quality that would shutter other companies. U.S. automakers represent a kind of Old School that a growing number of consumers don’t care about anymore.

Example No. 1? The Chevrolet Bolt is a real production car that offers everything most people want in a fully electric car without the wait. But consumers don’t care. Why? Because GM blew the introduction of the car. They adhered to Old School Detroit marketing think and thought that the humble, hat-in-hand approach was best because, well, they couldn’t offer them across the country and well, you know, they were doing the right thing. The result? An unmitigated disaster. An absolutely stellar engineering job by the True Believers at GM utterly wasted. Can you imagine if St. Elon was shilling the Bolt? It would be the greatest thing since sliced bread and GM couldn’t make them fast enough. But because Mary Barra and Dan “I Am” Ammann don’t think having a CMO is necessary and they fundamentally don’t understand what real marketing is to boot, the Bolt – a really excellent machine, by the way – is left withering on the vine. It’s simply unconscionable. And depressing.

And finally, as if we needed yet another reason for people to heap derision on the U.S. auto industry, the news that some jamoke executive at FCA colluded with a senior executive from the UAW to skim cash away from a work training initiative funded by FCA in order to fund lavish lifestyles is just icing on the cake. This story is going to blow up like a fireworks barge on the river of Not Good, and it’s going to be yet another black eye for this business. No, you can’t make this stuff up, unfortunately.

No wonder a guy like Elon Musk can rule the media landscape with a car that’s as much a state of mind than anything else. The Cult of Elon is the Greatest PR Show on Earth, and don’t you ever forget it.

As for Detroit? Ah well. Despite big profits and some great cars, Detroit has been back on its heels for the better part of a decade. The only PR the Detroit auto companies know is bad PR. As in nothing is good enough, or grand enough, or hip enough.

And in a media world dominated by Muskians spinning the golden yarn, that makes Detroit perpetually yesterday’s news.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

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