Putting Testy Tesla To the Test

Posted on February 25, 2013 by - Also by this author

GROWING PAINS: The recent spat between Tesla Motors and the New York Times over its road test review of the Tesla Model S Sedan does not flatter the electric vehicle maker. It's a case study on how not to handle a PR snafu.

LCT Magazine got a taste of such sensitivity recently in our dealings with Tesla S:

  • Our initial positive coverage of the vehicle was greeted with requests to closely approve and review any future content about Tesla in LCT Magazine. That’s a big PR mistake: Nothing annoys or alienates the media more than patronizing demands by a company or source to review content as if the media is an extension of the corporate P.R. department. A source or company may review content before publication — but that request should come from the media end in the name of accuracy.
  • LCT offered Tesla access for test drives, a hand-picked focus group, along with news coverage and photos, at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas. But despite considerable time spent by staff, along with positive preview exposure in the January 2013 issue of LCT Magazine, Tesla backed out at the last minute, forgoing a valuable opportunity to build buzz and possible future demand in the chauffeured transportation sector.  

And while we’re on the subjects of sensitivity, skepticism and sales. . . 

Another question that the media needs to keep hammering: If Tesla founder Elon Musk of Pay Pal fame is worth a reported $2.4 billion, why is his company accepting federal and state subsidies and tax credits at the expense of taxpayers? Does it make sense at a time of unprecedented fiscal and budgetary constraints among the federal and many state governments, including California?

Green energy may indeed be superior to conventional sources someday, but the sector needs to crawl, stand and toddle on its own. The green fledglings should play by the same rules as other private sector venture capitalists and entrepreneurs: Bring a product or service to market that becomes financially “sustainable” and profitable because people say “Wow” and want to buy it.

If the Tesla S is truly a groundbreaking and innovative vehicle, it should succeed on its own profitable merits. There is still promising potential that it can, and we would like to see it gain market share in the premium luxury chauffeured vehicle category. Limousine operators stand to save a lot of money on fuel and maintenance with the right electric luxury sedan.

If it cannot, engineers and designers need to take more time to produce a vehicle fueled by private sector funds only and that can thrive on the free market. Such a vehicle would be a genuine alternative to fossil fueled vehicles: Efficient, cleaner, competitive, affordable and reliable.

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor


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