No. 997
May 22, 2019
 

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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The Autoextremist - Rants


Tuesday
Apr232019

A DANGEROUS MIND.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. The latest Muskian nightmare roiling this industry emerged at a press event yesterday in Palo Alto, California, when Elon Musk declared that: 1. Newly-developed Tesla autonomous technology will put a fleet of robotaxis on the road by the middle of 2020. 2. Up to one million Tesla vehicles will be configured to take advantage of this technology and become part of the shared robotaxi network, with no humans required. And 3. “The fundamental message that consumers should be taking today is that it’s financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla. It will be like owning a horse in three years,” according to Musk.

Well, isn’t that special. The rocket impresario, who should stick to rockets by the way, is promising that he has discovered the magic technical silver bullet that will save his downward trending company and transform the transportation industry in eighteen months. We have certainly heard these outlandish statements from Musk before, as he furiously tried to will his boutique auto company into something more; but this time he has clearly lost all touch with reality. You have to remember that companies with far deeper pockets than Musk’s recurring corporate flim-flam act have been expending billions of dollars on AV technology, and not a single one of these companies is suggesting that their advanced autonomous technological developments are ready to be unleashed on the streets and byways of America sans driver.

That this latest charade from Musk is yet another desperate act in an attempt at saving his floundering company is obvious. Where it differs from other Muskian braggadocio is the fact that he is insisting that his AV technology is safe for mass application and consumption. Sorry to disappoint all of the St. Elon acolytes out there, but this is the insane part. Unleashing a fleet of zombie Teslas on the streets of America curated by a notorious nanosecond-attention-span personality such as Musk is the quintessential definition of flat-out crazy. You can’t even squint hard enough to suggest that this is, in some way, shape, or form, rational thought. It’s a case of an intermittently brilliant mind that has wandered over the line into the Abyss of Darkness. A dangerous mind that is so obsessed with pushing his perpetually sinking car company into some sort of elevated stratosphere that he is willing to treat real people as so much collateral damage.

This is insanity writ large, automotive or otherwise. The hubris on display by Musk in this unfolding debacle is almost incalculable. Think about this for a moment. Yes, Musk as an entrepreneur has accomplished much, and he can and should be lauded for his rocket achievements, but this is something entirely different altogether. Completely ignoring the very sketchy performance of his company's own "hands-free" driving features, Musk has now crossed over into that twilight dimension where his grip on reality has become fleeting. 

He now steadfastly believes that all of his thought balloons are heroic and visionary, that everything he touches is beyond failure and that the rest of the world is just too ill-equipped to comprehend his greatness. After all, we’re collectively just too dim to understand. The final component of his slip into the Abyss of Darkness is on full display with this latest act, which can simply be expressed by the idea that if people are too dense to keep up with his brilliance, then he will do what’s best for them whether they understand it or not. And oh, by the way, while he’s at it he will propel Tesla to the pantheon of corporate America.

It’s encouraging that a large portion of the media and analysts on Wall Street have grown tired of St. Elon’s act. The countless overpromising followed by the reality of those boasts when they come up woefully short have taken its toll on the blind reverential loyalty that used to be reserved for every utterance by Musk. Now, it’s thankfully in very short supply. Yes, there were a few holdouts in Palo Alto who have had their Muskian chips surgically implanted at the base of their skulls and who chanted huzzahs at the feet of their Master, but this time Musk has gone too far. 

And this time there should be consequences.

This country is 25 years away – at least – from widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. Yes, there will be scaled deployment in limited, commercial applications primarily in urban centers over the next two decades, but driverless Teslas careening around less than two years from now? It is a recipe for disaster the likes of which simply defies calculation.

I have been around this business since childhood. First growing up in a hardcore auto family deeply immersed in the business, followed by my own exploits in advertising and marketing over two decades, then creating the content for this website for the last coming-up-on 20 years. And I am here today to tell you that I have never seen or heard anything more irresponsible and flat-out dangerous than what went down in Palo Alto yesterday.

Cooler heads must prevail, which ultimately means that Elon Musk must be prevented from getting even remotely close to executing this plan.

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