A Polite Note About Tesla To Media Colleagues (Especially In Detroit)

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Tesla Motors, Palo Alto, California

Tesla Motors, Palo Alto, California

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Automotive journalists talk among ourselves, just as most people in most professions do.

And because this site consistently covers Tesla Motors and its electric cars, we've had a number of colleagues at other outlets reach out to us with questions about the Silicon Valley carmaker.

They all boil down to variants on one theme: "What's up with Tesla, anyway? Why don't we get any respect from them?"

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Specifically, the complaints seem to revolve around communications (a lack of response to e-mails and phone calls), test cars (Tesla only very rarely provides them, and then to only a handful of outlets), and general attention paid.

In other words, why doesn't Tesla play by the rules?

We've suffered from these things too. This site complains every month that Tesla doesn't see fit to issue monthly delivery totals or break down its quarterly sales by country.

2013 Tesla Model S owned by David Noland, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2015

2013 Tesla Model S owned by David Noland, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2015

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But we may have a bit of insight into why Tesla acts as it does.

And it may help explain the company, especially to those among our colleagues who are based in Detroit--and have regular contact with the communications and PR staffs of the three domestic makers, who act rather differently.

The bottom line is that Tesla is working at a pace that most domestic makers can't envision, and the company simply doesn't need much of the automotive media right now.

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This writer has worked in Silicon Valley at times during his career, and the company that owns this website was venture-funded until it was sold to a larger entity last year.

It's hard to explain the prevailing attitude of the Valley to someone who hasn't spent time there.

It may be indicative that the most salient criticism of the HBO weekly series Silicon Valley is probably that it's not nearly mean, vicious, and cutthroat enough.

Mercedes-Benz opens new R&D facility in Silicon Valley

Mercedes-Benz opens new R&D facility in Silicon Valley

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In the Valley, sudden, unanticipated, disruptive change--largely driven by technology--is not only taken as a given but welcomed.

Some of those changes will make a handful of people fabulously wealthy, and the rest of us will get cool new toys we didn't even know we wanted until they arrived.

In this view, life is constantly changing, technology is largely a force for positive social change, and it will make our lives--and the lives of the world--better. Sooner than you think.

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But carmaking, with a three- to five-year product development cycle and a 15-year product life, is different from consumer electronics, where products are obsolete and get replaced after 18 months.

So the existing auto industry often faces technological change with apprehension at best, because it has made multibillion-dollar bets based on a set of premises about what the future will look like.

At its core, Tesla shares some assumptions about the future of cars with legacy makers.

Tesla Autopilot Test

Tesla Autopilot Test

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It would likely agree that the four forces that will transform the industry are electrification, autonomy, connectivity, and sharing.

It has taken quite a while, not to mention the example of Tesla itself, to get the bulk of the industry to consider at least the first of those four.

And much of the auto media mirrored that apprehension, often citing all the reasons--many of them fact-based--about why it couldn't, wouldn't, and shouldn't happen.


 
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