Tesla is a company built on the bluff and bluster of one very clever engineer. Elon Musk had a feeling he could make an electric car that was light years ahead of anything else out there. He (eventually) made it work well (enough) and sold the idea to a hardcore fanbase of people who have come to regard Musk in the same way as the ancient Egyptians felt about men with long plaited beards and very tall hats. He’s like a god to them.
That means his words are gospel to some folk. They treat them like pure whispers of heaven dispensed through the intertubes right to their very own screens at home, or at work, or at the kind of hipster cafe that serves organic vegan frappa-mappa-whappa-mochaccinos for $10 a cup. In the eyes and hearts of the Teslarati, he can literally do no wrong.
Of course, that leads to instances where Tesla and/or Musk says or does something that the rest of us think is a bit strange, lacking in substance or just plain silly, and while the gasping Tesla forums go dizzy with delight, the rest of us sit there and ponder what the hell we’re missing.
This week’s Nurburgring debacle is a prime example. Out comes the Porsche Taycan to set a quick lap time in production spec. It duly does so, and we’re impressed. Tesla then jumps in out of nowhere and says it’s going to beat it, delivering a very un-production-spec Model S to the track and pumping it around so hard that it broke. Amusingly, a sedately-piloted Taycan was seen to overtake the fainted Model S as a recovery truck began its work.
Anyway, the point is this: Tesla said it was going to beat the Taycan around the track. Technically, and certainly, in the eyes of the faithful, it did. But to achieve it the playing field was wildly distorted. Take the Goodyear F1 Supercar 3R track day tyres, worth plenty of seconds on their own. Then there’s the fact that these are wider tyres than the current Model S standard, under wider arches with a wider track. There are another few seconds for you over and above the standard Model S’ s capability.
Then there’s the fact that the car in question was apparently totally stripped out and was running a prototype three-motor setup – one motor more than the Taycan – on the way to posting a time almost 20 seconds faster than the Taycan’s. Because of all this smoke and mirrors about the exact spec, and the fact that little of it may actually see service on a road-going version, you can’t possibly compare the two times.
That said, all that posturing will be enough for those people who say a prayer to Elon over their breakfasts. The unrepresentative lap time, the dubious spec enhancements and the claims that the circa 7m20s lap time is ‘just a start’ will be enough to have Muskovites frothing at the eyeballs and hammering their keyboards hard enough to break Twitter.
And yet. Those of us not possessed of the demonic Elon-obsession know that pretty much nothing of public value has been achieved. No points have been scored and no victories have been recorded, moral or otherwise. Tesla simply turned up with a heavily modified product that then went faster than a totally street-standard rival. That’s about as notable as news that a dog has attempted to hump a stranger’s leg, whatever the company says about posting a 7m05s lap next time.
Look beneath the skin, though; beneath the pointless Twitter nonsense from handles like TeslaLover, ElonFan and MarryMeMusk. What you’ll see is a company being led the way it always has been; by bluff and bluster. Shout your opinion loudly enough for long enough to the right people and eventually, it becomes fact. Just take a glance at Western politics for proof. With this non-event at the ‘Ring Tesla has bought itself vast amounts of column inches, and just maybe some more investment into its latest and fastest projects. Perhaps that was the point we were missing.