Tesla used to be a car company with something of a “cult” following. In recent years, however, they have become very mainstream, and are among the top-selling electric cars anywhere in the world. The fanbase has also been growing exponentially, and is made up mostly of both current and aspiring Tesla owners.
Unfortunately, this loyal Tesla following has received some flak on social media, some of it done in good fun, but others done a little more vitriolically. What is the cause of this growing distaste with the Tesla fanboy? What makes Tesla fanboys different from, say, Porsche fanboys? Is the criticism of Tesla fans justified, or is it simply the green monster of envy rearing its ugly head?
In today’s article, we endeavor to answer these questions and more on Tesla fanboys.
The Typical Tesla Fanboy
Before we get started on this section, let us first preface by saying this article is by no means meant to denigrate Tesla or their fans. We all have to learn to laugh at ourselves from time to time, and some of Tesla’s most fervent fans do warrant a bit of laughter here and there.
When we talk about Tesla “Fanboys,” we’re not necessarily talking about Tesla owners. As we mentioned above, some are Tesla owners, but many others are either aspiring Tesla owners or just huge fans of the company and its founder’s overall mission and activities. What, then, have these fans done or acted like in order to attract the attention of such well-known Internet satirists as JP Sears and many others?
Here are a few of their well-known mantras:
“Take that, internal combustion engines!”
The typical Tesla fanboy is a firm believer that every move Tesla makes is one tangible step closer to the final demise of all things related to the humble gasoline- and diesel-powered engine.
“That’s sooo 20th century!”
A healthy distaste for all negative talk or skepticism on Teslas and other electric car technology is a pretty typical fanboy trait. It tends not to matter what kind of data you present as evidence for an opinion; if you’re not 100 percent behind the Tesla philosophy, then you’re basically a Luddite.
“Zero emissions is love; zero emissions is life”
Grammatical problems aside, this mantra highlights the typical Tesla fanboy mentality that the only possible way to continue any kind of automotive development is to get zero emissions from our cars. Even emissions at 1 percent of what they were 10 years ago is unacceptable; it’s zero or nothing.
“0-60 in 3 seconds or less – that’s all that matters!”
Tesla’s (impressive but not unique) claims that their models can reach from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds or less are not exaggerations, but they are also not the be-all and end-all of how good a car is. Try telling that to the Tesla fanboys, though, and see how quickly they give you the death stare.
“Elon Musk is the second coming. Deal with it.”
Finally, another definitive feature of the typical fanboy is the kind of reverence and worship that would make Jesus blush. Musk is more than a savvy businessman and visionary entrepreneur; he has god-like status.
Why Do People Hate Tesla Fanboys?
Some of you who have read the above-mentioned mantras of the typical Tesla fanboy may find no mystery in the fact that people tend not to be keen on them as people. Just in case you missed it, however, Tesla fanboys tend to come across as impossibly smug, arrogant and even cultish in the way they talk about this electric car company and its founder, Elon Musk.
Once again, let us remind our reader that we are not writing this in order to bash either Tesla or Musk. There’s no doubt that they have achieved a lot and remain a powerful and important voice in the increasingly electrifying automotive world. It’s clear, however, that some of the company’s biggest fans are not doing Tesla or Musk any favors.
Beyond the Dogma: Tesla Owners
While many fanboys are the more dogmatic aspiring owners driven by their ideology, a segment of them are actual Tesla owners. YouTube comedian JP Sears did a fantastic send-up piece on Tesla owners and how they masked their materialism and thirst for status behind an eco-friendly image:
As Sears puts it in his Tesla owner persona, “the only way to save the environment is with a $110,000 car.” He also points to the cult-like ideological elements behind Tesla fanboys, remarking satirically, “if you don’t drive a Tesla, you clearly hate the environment.”
Tesla owners are at least people who can put their money where their mouths are, and give some realistic feedback on how Teslas work and how they can benefit us all. Having said that, they also don’t do much for the image of Tesla fans everywhere when they posture with their cars, denouncing others for not being rich enough to “be a part of the solution.”
Tesla Drivers on the Road
Another part of Sears’ video remarks on Tesla drivers themselves (most of whom are presumably fanboys) behaving badly and showing a clear negligence to others’ safety. Numerous reports from major news outlets have shown incidents of Tesla drivers being asleep at the wheel — like this one (NBC News) and this one (ABC News) — with the more “toxic” fanboys cheering and claiming that Tesla is thus proven the future of everything automotive. At the same time, however, even Elon Musk has been on the record as saying that the self-driving mode in Tesla cars will never be perfect. Beyond that, there are already rules in place that say that at its current level, self-driving technology is not a substitute for the driver’s attention in any way whatsoever.
Popular TV series South Park once sent up drivers of hybrid cars as “the leading cause of smug” (a fictitious form of deadly pollution, a play on the word “smog”), even remarking that hybrid drivers are so smug that they get to love the smell of their own flatulence. How prophetic they were, with some elements of Tesla’s fanbase showing similar smug attitudes. You only have to re-read some of the remarks we pointed to in the section above to know what we mean by this.
Is Tesla Fanboy Criticism Justified?
Is the ire that many are feeling towards the fanboys fair? What’s so bad about loving Tesla so much? Well, of course nothing is wrong with it. Tesla is a great company trying to accomplish great things. Elon Musk is also undoubtedly a great man of vision, regardless of whatever personal or professional flaws he may have shown in his lifetime.
But, are there any practical arguments to justify criticism of the fanboys? In short, yes there are. Fundamentally, they are reminders of the limitations of Tesla, Musk and the mission they are currently on.
The 4680 Battery! But When?
On Tesla’s “Battery Day” on September 22, 2020, Musk achieved the remarkable feat of making an announcement viewed by Tesla fans as groundbreaking and earth-shatteringly important without actually releasing or revealing anything tangible at all. The 4680 battery is supposed to be more efficient, cheaper to make and an instrumental part of making Tesla’s more viable and more affordable. The “announcement,” however, included absolutely no detail of when we will get them, or even a working prototype model to look at.
There’s Profit, and There’s “Profit”
Tesla is technically a profitable company, but where does it come from? Tesla cars are typically sold at a loss, so how is the company remaining solvent? The truth is that Tesla’s biggest revenue stream is the sale of its government-issued “Green Credits.” The US government requires automakers to maintain a certain percentage of low- or zero-emission vehicles in its selection, and punishes those who fail with steep fines. The only way to avoid the fines if you don’t meet the quota is to purchase green credits.
As a company that exclusively produces electric vehicles, Tesla has an abundance of these credits, and it makes millions upon millions of dollars in profit selling them to other automakers. This is the actual source of Tesla’s profit, currently, and not its car sales.
For all the emphasis Tesla places on its amazing batteries, the strongest fanboys either fail to realize or fail to point out that the best of this tech actually comes from Panasonic, not from Tesla. Furthermore, it’s only marginally better than other tech. It’s essentially the same as other batteries, only with improved chemistry. It’s hardly earth-shattering stuff, to be fair.
Conclusion: Satirize the Fanboys, but Admire the Mission
Neither Tesla nor Musk are perfect. They’re a company with their own unique set of business problems both present and potential. Furthermore, the biggest and most vocal fanboys give many justified reasons for poking fun. In our opinion, continue to send up the fanboys. It’s important that we can laugh at ourselves and acknowledge our own foibles when needed. On the other hand, cut Tesla a bit of slack. For all their faults, they still produce quality vehicles with cutting-edge tech, and they do have an admirable mission to change the way we think about driving and automotive matters in general. This is all to their credit.