Chinese goods are like pornography. They’re ubiquitous, unavoidable, consumed in mass quantities, but always on the down-low. Openly acknowledge an appreciation for porn only if you want to lose your marriage, your job, and any bid for public office. Openly cheerlead the fact that your product is Chinese-built, and you’re looked at askance. “Dude, you’re supposed to keep that part quiet.”
Ok, but what if it’s American-built, yet Chinese-backed? That’s a new one for most of the world’s consumers. And that’s what Funny-shaped Future (FF) will bring to the discussion next month in Las Vegas. Like a porn star trying to cross over into mainstream entertainment, Funny-shaped Future may have to mask an unusual stigmata. Tesla’s other “rival” products, whenever they hit the market, will at least have credible provenance to help them with consumer perception:
Apple Titanic: Obviously any Apple endeavor has legitimacy with a goodly portion of the public, Jobs or no Jobs.
Chevy Re-Volt: The bowtie symbol causes violent projectile vomiting in TeslaMondo circles, but amazingly, that’s not the case everywhere.
Mission Eventually: Porsche builds excitement on par with Tesla, no doubt. The online images of Mission Eventually made a healthy splash.
But FF may have an origin problem. Sure, like Tesla, it has a foot in California. It’s even plotting a factory in Nevada. But, as with the reborn Fisker, a Chinese big-shot writes the checks at FF. That’s going to require some skillful branding stuntwork. Fair or not — and it’s not fair because everyone from Apple to Tesla has ties to China — people may see Tesla as representing the USA and FF representing China. Advantage: Tesla.
Tesla won’t be able to play this card, since it’s trying to woo Chinese customers, but let’s face it: China has chalked up decades of ill will by trampling intellectual property and peddling tainted consumables. These demerits may loom large when pondering your transportation choices.
However, since FF’s backer Jia Yueting comes from an entertainment background, FF might have an early lead with in-car amusement. As cars become hands-free transport pods, this will factor. Will Tesla be caught unawares by FF’s super-immersive movie/internet/gaming experience when it bows in Las Vegas next month — albeit in concept form? Maybe. But two months later in Geneva, Model III will likely make FF seem like WTF, because Model III will likely materialize a lot sooner, and it’s not backed by the porn industry.