Tesla Motors, Palo Alto, California
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?"
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
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.
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.
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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.
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
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.
Tesla Motors, Palo Alto, California
Accordingly, much of the established automotive press spent the years 2006 to 2012 largely sneering at Tesla.
It denigrated electric cars (the phrase "smelly hippies" was used occasionally), and generally exhibited a profound contempt for most future digital and electrified auto technology.
The Roadster's swift, silent acceleration changed a few minds.
But it wasn't until Tesla showed a Model S body-in-white at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show that the industry and the media even began to consider that it might be serious.
Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda, at Tesla stand, 2011 Detroit Auto Show
But Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a great many of his employees believe in their gut that those changes will happen much, much faster than legacy makers do.
In part, that's a reflection of the Tesla customer base. With 100,000 cars sold, Tesla owners are clearly forward-looking, often socially and politically inquisitive, and very aware of energy politics and policies locally and globally.
They also quickly turn into zealous advocates and fans of the brand, the cars, and electric cars in general. And they are very eager for the future, and the change it will bring.
Tesla has said it expects to offer fully autonomous vehicles perhaps five years hence--most automakers put the date at 2030.
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Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
The idea of independently operated dealers is viewed by many in the Valley as an archaic 20th-century legacy so inadequate that they must get laws passed to preserve their monopoly on new-car sales--and one that will inevitably fall.
From that vantage point, with three years of rave reviews for the Model S and a Supercharger network years ahead of any other maker's DC fast-charging infrastructure, Tesla likely feels it can market its product without any need for the media.
It need not provide cars for each of the dozens of annual new-car awards because, to its audience, they may not matter much.
And, frankly, Tesla is more attuned to the technology press--some of it based in the San Francisco Bay Area--than to the legacy auto press.
The tech press is far more willing to consider new ideas, by and large, than the auto press has been thus far.
Tesla Supercharger site with photovoltaic solar panels, Rocklin, California, Feb 2015
And much of it did not take the reflexively sneering, dismissive attitude toward the idea of an electric-car startup that the auto media did.
(We won't even get into the very differing global and political outlooks of Silicon Valley and Detroit on issues like climate change.)
Finally, to be fair, Tesla's communications and PR staff are brutally overworked. Since shortly after the Roadster struggled into production in late 2008, this site has worked with five separate regimes in that department.
Employee churn is high among many Silicon Valley growth companies; some employees can't take the pace, while others prove more adept at small startups with 25 employees than larger ones with two orders of magnitude more people.
Tesla Model S with owner N.N. at Cypress Mountain, British Columbia, Canada
Either way, much of the automotive media simply isn't that necessary to Tesla Motors right now.
And as long as its cars are as good as the Model S appears to be--and their customers remain as devout as they have been to date--that's likely to continue.
They just don't need you, boys.