By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. The latest “show” from Elon “P.T.” Musk last week – the intro of the sacrosanct Tesla Model 3 – was an incredible hype-happening, for any number of reasons.
First of all, the car seems like a solid concept, and let me be perfectly clear here, after the disastrous “launch” of the Model X and the subsequent fumbling of that product, the Model 3 can only be viewed as a concept at this point.
Why? Because when some of the key auto industry veterans who helped Musk and his crew bring out the Model S - many of whom were toiling away on the project right here in the Motor City (the dirty little secret Musk and his minions would like everyone to forget) – left the company not long after the Model S emerged, suddenly Tesla was left to its own devices, which meant that Musk’s “blue-skying” was allowed to rattle around unimpeded, without the counterbalance of realistic expectations, and crucial design and engineering mistakes were made on the company’s next project, the cumbersome and ungainly Model X.
The result? Unbeknownst to the average misinformed consumer - thanks to the Fog of War generated by too many in the slobbering media - the mediocre Model X, when you step back from the ridiculous hype, can only be considered to be an unmitigated disaster. The Model X was years late, not months, but years due to some fundamental design and engineering issues, not the least of which was its giant doors that proved to be a complete pain in the ass and cost the program immeasurably. Oh, you weren’t aware of that? No, of course you weren’t. Why? Too many in the “media” were too busy cowering at the feet of Musk, basking in his brilliance, furiously doing his bidding by turning his thought balloons into pure, unfettered PR gold.
So to even think that the volume-aimed Model 3 will see the light of day “by the end of 2017,” as Musk suggested last Thursday night, is a complete and utter fantasy, indicating a level of delusion and hubris that is simply mind-boggling to behold. Just the level of tooling and scale required – not to mention the cash alone – to pull this off is a daunting mountain to climb, especially for what heretofore has been a “boutique” auto manufacturer.
One analyst had the cojones to say that the Model 3 would be lucky to see the light of day by 2020. I concur.
That didn’t stop the assembled multitudes in the media from absolutely gushing over the Model 3, however, while glossing over that little unpleasantness about the timing of its intro. In fact, you would have thought that they had never attended a car introduction before and that they had all been given special VR goggles that completely erased the last shred of rational thought.
I have never read such a disgusting display of “work” by so-called professional journalists in my life. By the time the collective media stumblebums were finished gushing over Musk and the Model 3, and regurgitating their “reports” in various media platforms, one could deduce the following: 1. This car was not only the greatest thing since sliced bread; it would change the world as we know it, turning it into a wondrous place of bunny rabbits and rainbows devoid of wars, poverty and suffering. 2. It would immediately humble cars costing twice as much due to its undeniable, all-encompassing brilliance. And 3. The car represents such a fundamental shift in the Autosphere that it could conceivably put all of the existing “poseur” car companies, some of which have been accumulating transportation knowledge for well over 100 years, immediately out of business.
One esteemed member of the media - and an over-the-top, electric car zealot to boot (tediously so, I might add) - even went so far as to explain that the Model 3 was such a breakthrough because, lo and behold, it had been designed from the beginning to be an electric car! As if this had never been thought of, or done, by anybody before. At which point I knew that the whole thing had turned into a circus of irrational thinking and an orchestrated – and ugly - cessation of reality.
But then again, maybe a third of the “media” in attendance were actual working members of the automotive media. The rest were card-carrying Musk acolytes, “lifestyle” reporters who wouldn’t understand the first thing about the car business even if you spotted them the “c” and the “r,” assorted Silicon Valley shmoes and enough vacuous hangers-on to populate an air-selling convention. It’s no wonder that Musk had this motley assemblage cheering at his every utterance.
And I haven’t even mentioned the rise of the pitchfork-wielding consumer zombies, the some 276,000-plus who blithely plunked down deposits of $1,000 each for the Model 3, a car they may see in three-and-one-half years' time, if they’re lucky, based simply on the overheated hype generated by the media who have relentlessly portrayed Elon Musk as the Patron Saint of All that is Good and Virtuous in the New World.
I once wrote that this nation could not exist in the global economy as a Starbucks Nation of consumer zombies, that consumerism in and of itself could never replace or eclipse the fundamental importance of the production of real goods and services and its contribution to America’s industrial fabric, or there would be dire consequences.
Well, it’s too late for that.
The quaint notion of the importance of America’s industrial fabric is being regularly dismissed by the consumer zombies as being boring or even worse, irrelevant. We have had irrational consumers lining up for the newest “thing” with no rhyme, or reason, or rational explanation for doing so for years now, whether it’s the latest and greatest “hot” phone of the moment or, as of last week, an electric car that seemingly promises eternal life, for all intents and purposes.
The frenzy over the Model 3, which has been fueled by some irresponsible members of the automotive media who steadfastly refuse to do their job, while acting as P.T. Musk’s lapdogs, is simply inexcusable. And the hype generated by reckless social media provocateurs masquerading as enlightened consumers has only compounded the situation, relegating rational discourse to the dustbin of a forgotten reality that existed in a galaxy far, far away.
Will the Model 3 ever see the light of day? Sure, but when it finally arrives is another consideration altogether, and what its place will be in the automotive world at that juncture remains to be seen.
In the meantime we will have to endure more of this reprehensible and irresponsible hype, while other oh-so-not-hip manufacturers like Audi, with an all-electric crossover coming in 2018, and GM, with its fully electric Bolt coming at the end of this year, and all of the other global manufacturers who are hard at work reinventing the automobile, go about their business.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.