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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why People Love Tesla - The Power Of The Pure Play

"I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights." Desmond Tutu

Tesla is now taking preorders for the Model 3 and ~400,000 people have put down $1000 to raise their hand and get one. In their latest ad campaign, Nissan is hoping to take advantage of this outpouring EV-love and persuade a few people to buy a Nissan Leaf today, even if they are planning on getting a Model 3 in 2018.

This is not a bad plan. I plan on driving my Leaf until it is traded in on a Model 3. I hope more people start driving EVs soon and that our community grows, but Nissan's ad was still a jab at Tesla.

GM too has taken jabs at Tesla saying that they don't need $1000 pre-order funds to build a car.

It's true that the Leaf is for sale now and that the Chevy Bolt will be out before Model 3 and you don't need to put down $1000 (and wait 18+ months) to get a Chevy Bolt. So why aren't there ~400,000 people lining up at 6AM to get Leafs and Bolts?

Is it the rockstar CEO quality of Elon Musk? Maybe. He has been compared to Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and even Iron Man's Tony Stark.

Is it the car's cool tech like the 17" touchscreen and cars that can drive themselves? Maybe.

Is it the vast free-for-life, solar-powered EV charging network available only to Tesla drivers? Maybe.

All of the above carry some weight and have been discussed many times over. I'd like to propose another idea. In the opening, there is a quote from Desmond Tutu. (sidebar: I am not trying to equate the first world problem of 'which car should I buy?' to the South African human rights struggle.) This quote speaks to a part of the human nature that wants to be treated fairly; it speaks to knowing that we matter. Let me be clear, Desmond Tutu was talking about something far more important. No one wants to be treated like a second class citizen.

If you are buying an EV from a traditional car company (Nissan, GM, Ford...), you are likely to be treated like a second class citizen at some point.

If you read EV forums, you'll find story after story of people that go to a dealership to buy an EV and the sales guy directs them towards a gas car. The salesman talks about all the "problems" with EVs. If you manage to fight through this and you do get an EV, then 3 months later you get a free oil change coupon in the mail.

Even with EVs on salesroom floors and better EV projects in the works, the traditional car companies and dealerships make the vast majority of their money from gas cars and gas cars will continue to be their primary focus for many many years.

The perfect example of this was in January '16 when GM CEO Mary Barra said, "We are not actively working on providing [recharging] infrastructure." For EVs to be successful, you need a coast to coast highspeed recharging infrastructure. But the traditional car companies are not all-in on EVs, so it does not matter to them if EVs are successful, or just a small volume market niche. Tesla, on the other-hand, has built a vast worldwide recharging network and they are continuing to grow it.

Why Tesla?

If being a pure play is all that it takes, then this devotion would flow to any EV start-up and maybe some aspects of it do, but Tesla earns its vast following and devoted fans because it has a complete package. Their products are not a compromise. They are not doing it because a government regulation requires it. Their cars are not something that is a modified version of a gas car with the minimum number of changes required to make it work. Tesla has purpose. It is a movement, not a product. And they have all the things listed above: the cool tech, the future vision, the vast, free-for-life, solar powered recharging infrastructure, and yes, the rocket man CEO.

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