Update: To clarify, I think Elon Musk was thinking about class competitors, and I certainly was while writing this article. Also, this is an expression of a feeling many Tesla owners have on a daily basis, the feeling that others unfortunately missed out from not being aware of what’s available or possible. It is not gloating or such, just a feeling that, “Oh, man, it’s too bad they don’t realize what they could have gotten.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said something similar to the headline above on the quarterly Tesla conference call a few hours ago.
It perhaps made me smile and laugh more than anything else on the conference call. The reason is simple, and it’s also why I’m keeping this article short.
There are many ways to rationalize a decision, and there are different reasons to buy one vehicle over another. You might prioritize power, safety, infotainment, autonomous driving, cargo space, or tech. Also, you may just like how a vehicle looks. On several of these matters, a Tesla vehicle objectively wins against the competition in its class. But a win on paper is not always worth a lot. What matters is the real-world experience. The thing that Tesla owners try to express in written words, while talking to others, or simply while thinking about why they love Tesla so much, is how wonderful it is to drive or use a Tesla. These are not empty reasons on paper — they are experienced essentially every day you have the car.
However, no talking or writing can pass that understanding on to someone. The vehicle has to be experienced. The vast majority of people have not driven a Tesla, and many don’t even know what “a Tesla” is. When we owners are out on the road (as we tend to be), we consistently see “competing cars” on the road that just came off a dealer lot — and we just shake our head, in large part feeling sorry for the people who bought them without realizing they could have gotten a far superior vehicle, and in part wondering why they did so. It happens to me several times a day. I can’t get over it (ask my wife). I talk to other Tesla owners and they have the same feeling and reaction. It’s just that hard to observe that other people make such unfortunate mistakes when buying new vehicles.
The way Elon talked about this on the call was hilarious because it was so genuine, so clearly what I and others think practically every day. And he expressed well how difficult it is to put these observations into words. You just cannot convey the feeling of “man, you made such a huge mistake” to someone who doesn’t get it, to someone who hasn’t gotten behind the wheel of a Tesla. Of course, for anyone who gets it, that statement is so obvious that it’s just refreshing (and perhaps funny) to hear someone else say it. We could see this play out with Joe Rogan. When Elon was on his podcast, Joe had never driven a Tesla. Elon encouraged him in the words he could bring to mind that Joe should really test drive a car. Joe responded in a sort of “sure, sure, I’ll do it … but I really like gas cars” way. Clearly, he didn’t get it and Elon’s comments didn’t do a whole lot to convince him. Nevertheless, he test drove a Tesla … and he was blown away by it. He bought a top-of-the-line Model S and apparently raves about it on his show frequently now. (I don’t listen to the show, but this is what I’ve been told.) Now, for sure, Joe has the same feeling Elon, other Tesla owners, and I have while driving around the city and seeing “competitors” that some unfortunate souls bought out of a lack of awareness or lack of experience.
Another reason why the comment was funny is that it’s just not what you expect to hear on a corporate conference call. It’s basically a mundane thing that I’d guess the majority of Tesla owners are thinking on a regular basis but is definitely not coming out of a yellow Corporate Communications for Idiots handbook.
On the call, the context was someone was asking about the evolution of the Tesla Model S and Model X and how Elon was thinking about them going forward (1:51 into our video). In the part of his response that made me laugh and inspired this article, Elon was specifically referring to the Model S. He said, “The Model S literally won Motor Trend‘s Best Car Ever, in history. If you’re out there and you stand by and you don’t buy a Model S, I think you just made a mistake.” Despite singling out the Model S there, the point applies to any Tesla. The feeling is basically the same, and it’s more about the other vehicle you see than the one you’re driving. I see a friend got a new Mercedes-Benz SUV and I can’t get the thought out of my mind, “If only she knew. … If only she had a week with the Model X beforehand — there’s no way she could have bought the Mercedes. If only she knew what she’s missing.” It’s such a huge mistake, yet she doesn’t even know it. I see someone at a red light who bought a new BMW 3 Series or Ford Mustang: “Ugh, what a disastrous mistake. They could be driving such a better car and enjoying it so much more.” But there’s nothing we can do, so we get the feeling Elon got and have to blurt it out. We expect non-Tesla owners won’t get it. We know Tesla owners will.
This is not a slam on anyone reading this who bought a non-Tesla. It’s just how it is. It’s just the feeling most Tesla owners have on a regular basis. It’s a feeling of unfortunate wonder. The good news is, with every 100,000 new Teslas on the road, more people get to see, experience, and learn about the cars. Word of mouth is a thing, especially with Teslas. But that’s a story for a coming day. It’s 2:40 am here, so I should get to bed.
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