What was the media writing about Tesla 5 years ago? What was CleanTechnica writing about Tesla 5 years ago? How does all of this compare to Tesla headlines today?
Google is certainly not the only way to evaluate top media trends, but it’s hard to beat. Curious about previous Tesla coverage compared to coverage today, I’ve returned to “Tesla flashbacks” with the goal of publishing a weekly report on the top Tesla stories (in Google) years ago versus today. Here’s the first edition of “Tesla Google flashbacks.”
In addition to looking at overall top-ranked stories, I’m also going to pull up the top Tesla stories on CleanTechnica in these weeks. Perhaps we’ll learn something!
One final note before getting to this week’s results: I’m not linking to the articles I dig up because I consider the sites most frequently covering Tesla to be somewhat shit sites that have been pushing a Tesla smear campaign (most likely, fooled into doing so rather than doing so on purpose with evil intent). Instead, I will attempt to clearly and concisely summarize them for you.
Top Headlines in Google
1. “The Making Of Tesla: Invention, Betrayal, And The Birth Of The Roadster” [Business Insider]
Opening line doesn’t inspire confidence: “Tesla Motors probably shouldn’t exist.”
The next line clarifies in a way that matches with what Sir Elon has told us himself: “The last successful American car startup was founded 111 years ago. It’s called Ford.”
This seems to have been a rather fair-handed article about Tesla for which “Business Insider conducted several in-depth interviews with most of the key players and pored over little-noticed documents made public in a lawsuit.” In other words, the outlet did some real legwork. And the article is looooooooooong — really long. It’s the most detailed deep history of Tesla I’ve seen in article format.
I didn’t read the whole piece, but it spends many, many, many paragraphs writing about Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning before even mentioning Elon Musk. I had never read so much about their history, even though I’ve watched an hour-long presentation from Tarpenning about Tesla’s origins a few times (great presentation, but keeps getting removed from YouTube). I also found it interesting/odd that the article spent so much time on them before mentioning Elon Musk and JB Straubel, and didn’t include mention of the lunch where Musk and Straubel met and decided to work on an electric car company together rather than an electric airplane company. In fact, the enormously long article only mentions Straubel 4 times!
It appears that the main sources for the article were indeed founders and other people no longer at Tesla, rather than the early Tesla people still at the company. So, no doubt, there’s a bit of a bias there. (Tesla Motors, surprisingly to the writers, wouldn’t comment for the story. “We also met with a curious lack of cooperation from the usually press-friendly Tesla Motors.”) Towards the very end of the piece, you have this:
Though Eberhard got the invite [to the Autopilot and Tesla D event] and still holds stock in the company, he skipped the festivities.
“I don’t pay attention to Elon’s superlatives,” he said.
The two no longer speak.
Eberhard can’t say what exactly he was doing that day. He thinks he read about the launch online with his coffee the following morning.
Meanwhile, Musk had become quite the showman.
I think you can see from these lines alone, almost at the close of the article, that the writer had been biased toward a certain view of Elon (presumably, by somewhat disgruntled former co-workers) that shaped the article and its messages to some extent. Did it also shape future Business Insider content? Who knows, but it seems plausible for various reasons. The lines just after that quote above, by the way:
“This car is nuts,” he said during the reveal. “It’s like taking off from a carrier deck. It’s just bananas. It’s like having your own personal roller coaster.”
You can call that being a showman, but just about any Tesla Model S P85D driver would be happy to tell you the same thing. Describing the car as a roller coaster is still one of my top two descriptions for the car. That’s what it feels like.
Okay, I’ll actually link to this one since you may want to read it.
Side note: We recently discussed that same Autopilot/Tesla D event in a Tesla Smart Summon & Tesla Inside Out video:
2. “This One Chart Shows Tesla’s Plan To Disrupt The Auto Industry” [Business Insider]
This is a short article centered around one graph from Tesla’s original master plan, obtained from a court case — Martin Eberhard v. Elon Musk, Tesla Motors. The graph highlights that an electric car could have insane performance as well as tremendous efficiency. The story is like something you’d find on CleanTechnica.
It may seem like common knowledge today, but it’s worth remembering that this was an earth-shattering dichotomy back in 2014, let alone in 2003!
3. “2014 Tesla Model S: Killing 3 Versions, 2 Colors, Some Options” [Green Car Reports]
This article covered some changes in Tesla’s Model S offerings. People sometimes treat Tesla’s shifting options and pricing to be a big message about the health of the company, but anyone who has followed the company closely for several years knows that Tesla is almost constantly changing things up. This is another reminder of that, and it’s sadly a reminder of the day Tesla killed its brown and dark green paint options, perhaps my two favorite Tesla paint options of all time.
In the light of many followers obsessing for the past year about a potential refresh of the Model S coming “any day now,” I found the final lines of this 2014 article quite funny:
After this flurry of revisions to models and features, Tesla says there will be no major platform or hardware changes in the Model S for at least a year.
Damn. No 110-kWh battery? No two-door Model S coupe?
See there? Obsession about a potentially imminent refresh that’s not in the works isn’t a new hobby. 😀 Regarding the refresh people have been waiting on for the past year or so, I’ll emphasize again that Elon said multiple times this year that there are no plans in place for a big refresh. So, let’s please drop that idea from the discussions. 😉
4. “An Interview With Tesla Battery Hacker (WK057)” [Hackaday]
Yes, this is an interesting piece for Tesla nerds. I don’t think I’ve ever run across the site Hackaday before, but WK057 is well known and Elon Musk once acknowledged he has a “gift.” I can recommend you read this one if you want to dive into some interesting Tesla details and off-grid living. Just note that much has changed in 5 years.
5. “Inside Tesla — A Rare Glimpse Of Electric Carmaker’s Culture” [Forbes]
“Zero advertising, zero discounts, zero patent protection (if used in good faith) and sparse press notices. Tesla’s marketing and business model is certainly novel.”
The article goes on from there to give a fine, basic description of the company. By now, the company and story is well known, so there’s not much to highlight. However, it’s refreshing to go back 5 years and see top stories that aren’t smear jobs.
Interestingly, the article did end with this line: “If Tesla can get its act together and deliver cars as smart and engaging as Ell, one day it might even make some money.” Heh.
6. “Tesla’s Growing Pains” [Joe Barkai]
A fairly simple article that is not totally negative about Tesla but includes numerous FUD talking points in its short length.
That this is a top search result just shows how little Tesla was discussed 5 years ago.
7. “Elon Musk: Tesla Must ‘Not Be Too Perfectionist’ With Its Future Products” [Greentech Media]
“Q3 revealed that the disruptive EV maker faces the same production issues as traditional OEMs.” That short summary under the headline captures the point of the story. A subheading further down: “Quantity versus quality.” Indeed, criticism and skepticism of Tesla’s manufacturing chops is nothing new. And, admittedly, much has improved in the past 5 years! Tesla of 2014 definitely was not ready to produce vehicles like it does today — but that shouldn’t be a surprise after 5 years of learning and rapid innovation.
Top CleanTechnica Headlines in Google
So, what did we have to write about Tesla back in November 9–15, 2014? Google highlights two stories.
Unplugged Performance is a Tesla aftermarket mod startup providing high-quality, premium upgrades and customization. It’s located right behind Tesla’s design studio and SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. Apparently, it showed off a pretty light blue Model S at SEMA this month 5 years ago. The video is gone now, so there’s not much to see there. It’s hard to imagine a blue-ified Model S would get much attention today.
I love this article. I still often think about it today and sometimes use that phrase “range anxiety anxiety.” I think it’s worth a read and share now as much as it was in 2014. Here’s a short definition of this fun (but unfortunate) phrase from the article: “Range anxiety is an infrequent thing, but people unfamiliar with electric cars read articles hyping short range and long charge times and they develop anxiety that they’d have range anxiety if they owned an EV.”