Do you have kids? If you do, you probably know how unpleasant it is to tell them when they make bad decisions. It’s not fun, but it has to be done if your child is going to become someone you’re proud of. Although this is just a metaphor, InsideEVs has and will continue to take Tesla to task for its bad decisions for similar reasons.
No other company has promoted electric mobility more than Tesla. The main accomplishment the company has achieved is making EVs desirable. That started with the Roadster, which was the first EV with a respectable range and performance that rivaled the world’s fastest sports cars.
Next came the Model S, which was – and still is – a revolutionary luxury car that attracted former owners of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi cars. They wanted Teslas instead. Elon Musk’s Master Plan had begun working and working really well.
Things seemed to be going splendidly. After the Model X SUV, the Model 3 arrived and received the most reservations for any car ever. Tesla has also previewed exciting new vehicles, such as the Model Y, new Roadster, Semi, and Cybertruck. But the honeymoon with consumers has started to show signs of wear, revealing a more stressed relationship.
People lost the level of service with Tesla they were used to having. Many owners have to wait a long time for an appointment at a Service Center, and often drive hours to get there. Many Model 3 units were not painted to the standards that paint suppliers set. Some Model 3s were found to have missing bolts, missing parts, and misaligned panels. Tesla became too big too fast. The pressure to deliver cars quickly seems to have made some units defective, and Tesla has not always been willing to correct them.
The honeymoon with consumers has started to show signs of wear, revealing a more stressed relationship.
Older Teslas are now showing issues, such as some failing MCUv1 infotainment systems or the software update that capped voltage, range, and supercharging speed, probably due to battery issues the company may have discovered. The Model X also has a chronic CV joint problem that makes it wear out prematurely.
Tesla’s fiercest fans usually ask us to forgive the “growing pains” of a company with a greater mission: saving the world and the environment. But they have missed the point entirely.
Why? First of all, because Tesla is saving personal transportation, not the planet. In the best-case scenario, it may help save the world. Cars are not the primary source of pollution or carbon dioxide emissions, so they are also not the final solution to halt it.
Secondly, personal mobility is precisely what is at stake if we do nothing about these problems we see. Current ICE-powered vehicles cannot lower their emission levels without complicated and expensive solutions, while electric cars naturally do not have emissions at all.
Anyone who doesn’t want cars to disappear off the face of the Earth entirely will have to adopt an EV. For that to happen, Tesla has to succeed.
In the future, where there is a large concentration of automobiles in a given place, they’d better be electric cars – either that or no cars at all, as some die-hard environmentalists want the future to be. Anyone who doesn’t want cars to disappear off the face of the Earth entirely will have to adopt an EV. For that to happen, Tesla has to succeed. The company’s issues threaten that, and therefore the future of personal mobility as a whole.
Thirdly, because forgiving Tesla's mistakes or trying to hide them will not make it stronger. It will make the company vulnerable, prone to repeat the errors legacy automakers have committed and to fall because of them.
Lastly, but not least important, is that not reporting issues with Tesla would be bad journalism, bad as the slanted stories we often see presented in mainstream media.
As much as we do not want our kids to grow up to be bullies or evil persons, we also do not want them to be mistreated by others. We believe it’s our obligation to point out examples of problematic articles from other media outlets about Tesla. We often find coverage of Tesla in the press is tilted towards a negative angle, which we must bring to light and correct. The same is true for stories tilted towards a positive angle. The truth, somewhere in the middle, is what we seek.
The video above is one example of mainstream reporting about Tesla that could have been terrific journalism but has a lot of flaws.
Its title says it will cover production hell but tells Tesla’s whole story with a negative bias. It accuses Musk of taking the company to this hell when it was just a natural step ahead: mass production. Stock devaluation is presented as natural, and the contrary is seen as absurd.
Finally, it reports Autopilot as a liability while we have shown multiple times it has saved lives.
If there is anything wrong with Autopilot, Tesla has itself covered by stating it is in beta testing. When you decide to use it, you voluntarily apply to be a guinea pig and to follow the rules to do so. Tesla even “jails” people who do not agree to them suspending the software use for some periods, as the video below shows.
Blaming Autopilot to evade responsibility in accidents caused by negligence won’t do the trick. Regardless, Tesla’s insistence on calling this software Autopilot is probably one of the reasons for the negative press and misunderstanding by the media about this software, like an unfulfilled promise. The EV company probably has strategic reasons for keeping it, but changing the name could alleviate the criticism around it.
An article on Medium by Michael Barnard made an interesting point back on September 2, 2018, that Tesla was doing much better than headlines suggested. He presents more cases of debatable articles against Tesla written by media professionals already known as anti-Tesla, such as Linette Lopez. Even Elon Musk went after her personally on Twitter asking for explanations regarding some articles she wrote.
Not only once, but twice.
Cleantechnica has a dedicated tag about unfair media coverage called “Pravduh about Tesla.” That was inspired by an episode in which Elon Musk bought the Pravduh domain to make a satire with bad press coverage.
The Cleantechnica tag puts together articles that quote the NY Times, LA Times, and Russ Mitchell as spreading “anti-Tesla propaganda.” The DesmogBlog says CNN did that as well - right, Anderson Cooper?
If you read these articles, you can see there is a concern about short-sellers’ influence over media coverage of Tesla. Instead of being sure of the fundamentals that led them to bet against the company, these short-sellers try to ensure Tesla fails by influencing the media. We’re not sure they are all doing that, but some certainly seem to be.
That has led to a bitter relationship between Tesla and all media. The company is famous for not replying to any media request, and that is a big mistake. What Tesla does is address the public through its blog when it finds something to be unfair.
That is what happened when new claims of unintended acceleration emerged. We wrote about the reports on InsideEVs. Tesla was quick to deny them and one of our most reliable sources, Jason Hughes, said the unintended acceleration in Teslas is impossible. We published a new article to explain why that was the case. When something we write is not accurate, we owe our readers the truth – whenever that is necessary.
The company is famous for not replying to any media request, and that is a big mistake.
A recent example was with Model 3 seats presenting rust. We wrote about that and tried to clarify the story for months. No seat supplier got in touch with us. It was only with the help of Al Steier, from Munro & Associates, that we learned “that about 50 percent” of manufacturers “do not paint the seat supports.” Mostly because these seats are in a low humidity environment that will make them rust very slowly. In other words, the surface rust on seat frames is an automotive industry standard.
When readers ask us for our help to deal with Tesla, we try to assist them. That is what led us to cover the MCUv1 logging issue. In short, it is a problem with the eMMC flash chip on infotainment units that makes people have to replace them after about four years of use – almost like a wearing part on a combustion-engined vehicle.
Elon Musk promised an upgrade to fix this issue on March 27, 2018. Tesla clients have created an online petition to have that promise fulfilled. We were glad to report on March 3, 2020, that the upgrade is finally available. We like to believe we had something to do with that Tesla decision.
Another situation in which Tesla has taken new measures to address issues is with Model 3 paint problems. After we started reporting these cases, Tesla began providing a free mudflap kit to prevent the chipping. Unfortunately, it was not enough. Worse still, the mudflap can accumulate dirt and water and cause rust issues. Tesla is even selling an affected unit at its official website. What these clients expect is a repaint of their damaged cars and the reassurance it will not happen again, not a palliative solution that doesn’t address the underlying paint issues.
The company’s silence about specific issues can be taken as tacit confirmation of the suspicions.
Tesla has not officially denied these problems – neither the one with its older battery packs or the A-pillar rust on some Model 3 units. Without clear communication with the press, though, the company’s silence about specific issues can be taken as tacit confirmation of the suspicions.
Tesla’s in a tough spot, though. If the company denies the problems, it can later be sued for lying to consumers. If it admits them, affected clients will want to know how the company will fix these defects. The situation with Chinese customers about HW 2.5 and HW 3.0, already qualified by the Chinese government as illegal, shows the American EV producer urgently needs to be more transparent.
Unfortunately, Tesla still insists on the silent approach, perhaps because of the lessons learned from bad experiences it has had so far with the press. Apart from incompetent, ignorant, or shallow reporting, the company probably also fears any adverse reporting may have an agenda to harm Tesla and electric mobility as a whole.
InsideEVs is an example that this is not always the case, but the company has its reasons to act like a scalded cat. Why? This transportation revolution will ruin many current enterprises. Big ones. So some interested parties will go to great lengths to protect their legacy investments, which includes lying about Tesla in the press or to the press.
There is nothing for us to profit from if a company succeeds or fails due to anything we publish.
That is why InsideEVs editors and writers are forbidden to own stocks related to electric cars in general and Tesla in particular. Our entire team knows our best asset is credibility, which requires we report in the most impartial way possible. There is nothing for us to profit from if a company succeeds or fails due to anything we publish.
As we have mentioned, we advocate for EVs. Not a specific one, but all of them. It is vital to see cleaner personal mobility means emerge, whether from new manufacturers or legacy one. It will be great to see Tesla, Rivian, Lucid, Toroidion, Nio, Aptera, and so many others succeed (if they can), but that cannot be at the expense of the very customers who help them do so.
If you found out your son was cheating on exams, would you just ignore that? Or would you show him this short-term gain could ruin his life in the long term? If you realized he was bullying weaker children, would you consider forgiving that because “boys will be boys”? Think of the more vulnerable children as customers, and you will see our point.
We advocate for EVs. Not a specific one, but all of them.
Allowing your kid to bully would be like what legacy automakers have been caught doing to hide their own sins. Like Volkswagen did with its diesel engines. Ironically, the German company used the low carbon dioxide emission excuse to sell vehicles that did not respect emission levels for more dangerous pollutants: nitrogen oxides. Anyone that advocated these cars solely due to global warming may have promoted air poisoning.
Can you imagine what would happen to Tesla if it were involved in a Batterygate? A Paintgate? What would happen to the cause of electric mobility if the company failed? Who would champion the idea that EVs are feasible, desirable, and trustworthy?
We want Tesla to move forward, to learn, and to grow. We want the same for all EV manufacturers. We also wish Tesla to be loyal to its customers and respectful and upfront with everyone else. Growing pains are only worth it if you turn out to be someone a parent will be proud of – that you would be proud to be yourself – even if some admonishing is necessary along the way.