Here’s how rival auto execs, caught flat-footed and bewildered like deer in Tesla’s headlights, have tried to talk down Tesla so far.
May 5, 2015: Porsche CEO Matthias Müller: “I cannot say anything about Tesla,” he said. “I don’t know anything about Tesla.” That’s what he told the Wall Street Journal. If he really knows nothing about Tesla, he’s unfit for the job. If he knows a lot about Tesla, then he’s a liar. No-win predicament there. Apparently he came around to the same conclusion, because just four months later, on Sept 15, 2015, he totally contradicted himself, saying he has great respect for Tesla.
June 15, 2016: A Porsche engineer tells Automobile magazine that Tesla’s Ludicrous mode is just a “facade” because repeated runs drain the car’s electrical charge too quickly. Yes, an actual car by Tesla pales in comparison to an abstraction by Porsche.
July 2, 2014: Brian Smith, Lexus VP: “They’ll probably come back,” he said, referring to former Lexus customers who’ve defected to Tesla. “I think the question remains to be seen how many people will buy a second Tesla.” Turns out, a lot. Remember the Consumer Reports loyalty surveys? Tesla has dominated them for both sales and service.
April 6, 2014: Mercedes Benz USA boss Steve Cannon: “Folks are buying a Tesla now because they’re kind of cool, but if you’re a Tesla buyer, you have to have multiple cars,” Cannon told Forbes, adding that he felt the infrastructure necessary to maintain and fuel electric cars wouldn’t soon stand up to mass demand. “With Mercedes, you have a whole network. You’ve got no worries.” See? Hakuna Matata. But wait, Mercedes makes the least-reliable car on the planet.
Nov. 28, 2014: BMW: During speculation about a Tesla/BMW collaboration with batteries and carbon fiber, unnamed sources within BMW told a German magazine that Tesla is faking an association with BMW for marketing purposes. Touchy touchy. Soon enough, BMW will be more than happy to associate itself with the Tesla name. The truth is, BMW’s image could use a little massaging.
July 31, 2013: Audi: Issued a press release on its website (quickly taken down) titled, “Not so fast to put Tesla on that particular pedestal.” It slapped the media for hyping Model S sales numbers. Tesla’s sudden success represents merely a temporary blip from early adopters, said the press release. Well, it’s now mid-2015, comfortably past the early-adoption stage, and demand isn’t slowing. That’s partly because the Model S has quickly and relentlessly improved while rival products receive updates about every five years — and suffer new glitches with every iteration. UPDATE: Audi is a diesel weasel, cheating on emissions testing.
Aug. 20, 2015: Aston Martin: “We don’t do Ludicrous because Ludicrous speed is stupid,” So says Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer. Calling Tesla stupid for being ludicrous is insane. We need ludicrous because it’s crazy, and crazy is good. Why? Because if we weren’t crazy we’d all go insane. Yes, that’s a ludicrous notion, but not stupid. Jimmy Buffett wrote those words. So there, Mr. Palmer. You want to diss Musk? You’ll must answer to Buffett.
Oct. 31, 2016: Carlos Ghosn: “I know the media love to say we have a new superman coming here, and it’s going to make all of you look like dinosaurs,” Ghosn said. “But, frankly, the likelihood that this is going to happen in our industry, in my opinion, is very limited.”
Oct. 28, 2015: Toyota: Just after Tesla releases Autopilot, Akio Toyoda tells reporters at an auto show, “If there is a major accident involving automated driving, technological advancement will stop suddenly.” And then, “When we at Toyota say something publicly, it must be real.” Before anyone bangs a gong, do remember that cruise control is automated driving. Also, do remember that neither auto-manual shifters, nor push-button ignitions nor even all-weather mats never suffered the slightest pause despite their culpability in this century’s single most publicized crash, the Lexus “911” disaster of 2009, which snowballed into the Toyota sudden-accleration hysteria of 2009-2011. And lastly, remember that this company said it sees no market in electric cars. Don’t scoff. It must be real, remember? This is Toyota.
April 27, 2016: Volvo engineer Trent Victor: “It gives you the impression that it’s doing more than it is,” he said about Tesla’s Autopilot, also calling it a “wannabe.” June 11, 2016: His boss, Dr. Peter Mertens declares about Autopilot:”It’s trying to kill me.” Volvo’s technology is better because it’s always on, the company says. No chance for confusion about whether it’s active or not. Problem is, you might mistakenly assume the car has the technology when it doesn’t. That’s exactly what happened in one of Volvo’s three failed safety demos. The other two are just plain system failures. Maybe Volvo should just STFU about this subject before some dummy gets hurt, eh?
So that sums up Silicon Valley versus the world, Round One. Ready for more laughs in Round Two?